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Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

February 5, 2014

Congressional Research Service
Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights

More than two years after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, sectarian divisions and the Sunni-
led uprising in neighboring Syria have fueled a revival of radical Islamist Sunni Muslim insurgent
groups that are attempting to undermine Iraq’s stability. Iraq’s Sunni Arab Muslims resent the
Shiite political domination and perceived discrimination by the government of Prime Minister
Nuri al-Maliki. Iraq’s Kurds are embroiled in separate political disputes with the Baghdad
government over territorial, political, and economic issues. The rifts caused a significant uprising
led by the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, now also known by the name Islamic State of
Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that began December 26, 2013 and gained control of several cities in
Anbar Province. Earlier, unrest delayed some provincial elections during April-June 2013 and the
latest uprising could affect the legitimacy of national elections for a new parliament and
government set for April 30, 2014. Maliki is widely expected to seek to retain his post after that

The latest violence has exposed weaknesses in the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in the absence of
direct U.S. military involvement in Iraq. To date, the 800,000-person ISF has countered the
escalating violence by itself, but the violence killed nearly 9,000 Iraqis in 2013—more than
double the figure for all of 2012. Informal security structures put in place during the U.S.
intervention in Iraq in 2003-2011 have fractured or faltered in the late 2013-early 2014 ISIL
challenge. And there are a growing number of reports that some Shiite militias have reactivated to
retaliate for violence against Shiites.

U.S. forces left in December 2011 in line with a November 2008 bilateral U.S.-Iraq Security
Agreement. Iraq refused to extend the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, seeking to put behind it the
period of U.S. political and military control. Program components of what were to be enduring,
close security relations—extensive U.S. training for Iraq’s security forces through an Office of
Security Cooperation—Iraq (OSC-I) and a State Department police development program—
languished during 2011-2013. However, Iraq – including during Maliki’s visit to Washington,
D.C. on October 29-November 1, 2013 - continued to press to acquire sophisticated U.S.
equipment such as F-16 combat aircraft, air defense equipment, and attack helicopters. As
violence escalated significantly in January 2014, U.S. officials and Members of Congress have
agreed to increase security assistance to the Maliki government, including providing the attack
helicopters, while ruling out re-introduction of ground troops to Iraq. At the same time, the United
States has counseled restraint in use of force against civilians and promoted dialogue among Iraqi
factions to resolve the underlying sources of Sunni resentment.

The Administration and Congress continue to cultivate Iraq as an ally in part to preserve the
legacy of the U.S intervention and to prevent Iraq from falling under the sway of Iran. Asserting
that the Sunni-led rebellion in Syria is emboldening Iraqi Sunnis, Maliki has not joined U.S. and
other Arab state calls for Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to leave office and Iraq has not
consistently sought to prevent Iranian overflights of arms deliveries to Syria. Still, the legacy of
the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, Arab and Persian differences, and Iraq’s efforts to reestablish its
place in the Arab world limit Iranian influence over the Baghdad government. Iraq took a large
step toward returning to the Arab fold by hosting an Arab League summit on March 27-29, 2012,
and has substantially repaired relations with Kuwait, the state that Saddam Hussein invaded in
1990. In June 2013, the relationship with Kuwait helped Iraq emerge from most Saddam-era
restrictions imposed under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter.

Congressional Research Service
Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights

Overview of the Post-Saddam Political Transition .......................................................................... 1
Initial Transition and Construction of the Political System ....................................................... 1
Major Factions Dominate Post-Saddam Politics ................................................................. 1
Interim Government Formed and New Coalitions Take Shape ........................................... 2
Permanent Constitution ....................................................................................................... 3
December 15, 2005, Elections Establish the First Full-Term Goverment ........................... 4
2006-2011: Sectarian Conflict and U.S.-Assisted Reconciliation ................................................... 4
Iraqi Governance Strengthens As Sectarian Conflict Abates..................................................... 5
Empowering Local Governance: 2008 Provincial Powers Law (Law No. 21) ................... 5
The March 7, 2010, Elections: Shiites Fracture and Sunnis Cohere ......................................... 7
Election Law and “De-Baathification” Controversies ........................................................ 7
2010 Election and Results ................................................................................................... 8
Post-Election Government .................................................................................................. 9
Second Full-Term Government (2010-2014) Formed ......................................................... 9
Post-U.S. Withdrawal Political Unraveling ................................................................................... 10
Al Qaeda in Iraq/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ................................................. 11
Naqshabandi Order (JRTN) ............................................................................................... 12
Pro-Government Armed Sunni Groups: Sons of Iraq Fighters ......................................... 12
Political Crises Begin After U.S. Withdrawal ......................................................................... 12
Political Crisis Contributes to Reopening Sectarian Rift in 2013 ..................................... 13
Major Uprising Flares in Late 2013 ........................................................................................ 17
KRG-Central Government Disputes........................................................................................ 18
Kirkuk Dispute .................................................................................................................. 20
KRG Oil Exports ............................................................................................................... 20
KRG Elections and Intra-Kurdish Divisions ..................................................................... 21
The Sadr Faction’s Continuing Ambition and Agitation ......................................................... 22
Sadrist Offshoots and Other Shiite Militias ...................................................................... 23
Governance, Economic Resources, and Human Rights Issues ...................................................... 23
Energy Sector and Economic Development ............................................................................ 24
Oil Resources Fuels Growth ............................................................................................. 25
General Human Rights Issues.................................................................................................. 25
Use of Coercive Force ....................................................................................................... 26
Trafficking in Persons ....................................................................................................... 26
Media and Free Expression ............................................................................................... 26
Labor Rights ...................................................................................................................... 27
Religious Freedom/Situation of Religious Minorities....................................................... 27
Women’s Rights ................................................................................................................ 28
Executions ......................................................................................................................... 28
Mass Graves ...................................................................................................................... 28
Regional Dimension ...................................................................................................................... 29
Iran........................................................................................................................................... 29
Syria......................................................................................................................................... 30
Turkey...................................................................................................................................... 32
Gulf States ............................................................................................................................... 32
Kuwait ............................................................................................................................... 33

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U.S. Military Withdrawal and Post-2011 Policy............................................................................ 33
Question of Whether U.S. Forces Would Remain Beyond 2011 ............................................. 34
Decision on Full Withdrawal............................................................................................. 34
Structure of the Post-Troop Relationship ................................................................................ 35
Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) and Major Arms Sales ............................... 35
2013-4: Iraq Rededicating to U.S. Security Programs? .................................................... 37
The Diplomatic and Economic Relationship..................................................................... 39

Table 1. Major Coalitions for 2010 National Elections ................................................................... 7
Table 2. March 2010 COR Election: Final, Certified Results by Province ................................... 42
Table 3. U.S. Assistance to Iraq: FY2003-FY2013 ....................................................................... 43
Table 4. Recent Democracy Assistance to Iraq .............................................................................. 44
Table 5.Election Results (January and December 2005) ............................................................... 45

Author Contact Information........................................................................................................... 46

Congressional Research Service
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Overview of the Post-Saddam Political Transition
A U.S.-led military coalition, in which about 250,000 U.S. troops participated, crossed the border
from Kuwait into Iraq on March 19, 2003. Turkey refused to allow any of the coalition force to
move into Iraq from the north. After several weeks of combat, the regime of Saddam Hussein fell
on April 9, 2003. During the 2003-2011 presence of U.S. forces, Iraq completed a transition from
the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein to a plural political system in which varying sects and
ideological and political factions compete in elections. A series of elections began in 2005, after a
one-year occupation period and a subsequent seven-month interim period of Iraqi self-governance
that gave each community a share of power and prestige to promote cooperation and unity. Still,
disputes over the relative claim of each community on power and economic resources permeated
almost every issue in Iraq and were never fully resolved. These unresolved differences—muted
during the last years of the U.S. military presence—reemerged in mid-2012 and have returned
Iraq to sectarian conflict.

Initial Transition and Construction of the Political System
After the fall of Saddam’s regime, the United States set up an occupation structure based on
concerns that immediate sovereignty would favor established Islamist and pro-Iranian factions
over nascent pro-Western secular parties. In May 2003, President Bush named Ambassador L.
Paul Bremer to head a “Coalition Provisional Authority” (CPA), which was recognized by the
United Nations as an occupation authority. In July 2003, Bremer discontinued a tentative political
transition process and appointed a non-sovereign Iraqi advisory body, the 25-member “Iraq
Governing Council” (IGC). During that year, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators, advised by a wide range
of international officials and experts, drafted a “Transitional Administrative Law” (TAL, interim
constitution), which became effective on March 4, 2004.1 On June 28, 2004, after about one year
of occupation, Ambassador Bremer appointed an Iraqi interim government. That date met the
TAL-specified deadline of June 30, 2004, for the end of the occupation period, which also laid out
the elections roadmap discussed below.

Major Factions Dominate Post-Saddam Politics
The interim government appointed by the CPA was headed by a prime minister, Iyad al-Allawi,
and a president, Sunni tribalist Ghazi al-Yawar. He is leader of the Iraq National Accord (INA), a
secular, non-sectarian faction that had long opposed Saddam Hussein. Allawi is a Shiite Muslim
but his supporters are mostly Sunni Arabs, including some former members of the Baath Party.

• Da’wa Party. The interim government was heavily influenced by parties and
factions that had long campaigned to oust Saddam. These included long-standing
anti-Saddam Shiite Islamist parties, such as the Da’wa Party and the Islamic
Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), both of which were Iran-supported underground
parties working to overthrow Saddam Hussein since the early 1980s. The largest
faction of the Da’wa Party is led by Nuri al-Maliki, who displaced former leader
Ibrahim al-Jaafari in 2006.

Text, in English, is at

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• Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) is led by the Hakim family—the sons of
the revered late Grand Ayatollah Muhsin Al Hakim, who hosted Iran’s Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini when he was in exile in Iraq during 1964-1978. In the
immediate post-Saddam period, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim led the group after the
August 2003 assassination of his elder brother, Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim, in a
bombing outside a Najaf mosque. After Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim’s death in August
2009, his son Ammar, born in 1971, succeeded him as ISCI chief.
• Sadrists. Another Shiite Islamist faction, one loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Al
Sadr, whose family had lived under Saddam’s rule, gelled as a cohesive party
after Saddam’s ouster and also formed an armed faction called the Mahdi Army.
Sadr is the son of revered Ayatollah Mohammad Sadiq Al Sadr, who was killed
by Saddam’s security forces in 1999, and a relative of Mohammad Baqr Al Sadr,
a Shiite theoretician and contemporary and colleague of Ayatollah Khomeini.
• Kurdish Factions: KDP and PUK. Also influential in post-Saddam politics in
Baghdad are the long-established Kurdish parties the Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP) headed by Masoud Barzani, son of the late, revered Kurdish independence
fighter Mullah Mustafa Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)
headed by Jalal Talabani.
• Iraqi National Congress (INC). Another significant longtime anti-Saddam faction
was the INC of Ahmad Chalabi. The group had lobbied extensively in
Washington, DC, since the early 1990s for the United States to overthrow
Saddam, but did poorly in post-Saddam Iraqi elections.
• Iraqi National Alliance (INA)/Iraqiyya. Another major exile group that became
prominent in post-Saddam Iraq was the Iraqi National Alliance (INA) of Iyad al-
Allawi. Allawi is a Shiite but most of his political allies are Sunni Arab. After
returning to Iraq, Allawi went on to become prime minister of the interim
government and then leader of the major anti-Maliki secular bloc now called

Interim Government Formed and New Coalitions Take Shape
Iraqi leaders of all factions agreed that elections should determine the composition of Iraq’s new
power structure. The beginning of the elections process was set for 2005 to produce a transitional
parliament that would supervise writing a new constitution, a public referendum on a new
constitution, and then the election of a full-term government under that constitution.

In accordance with the dates specified in the TAL, the first post-Saddam election was held on
January 30, 2005, for a 275-seat transitional National Assembly (which would form an
executive), four-year-term provincial councils in all 18 provinces (“provincial elections”), and a
Kurdistan regional assembly (111 seats). The Assembly election was conducted according to the
“proportional representation/closed list” election system, in which voters chose among “political
entities” (a party, a coalition of parties, or people). The ballot included 111 entities, 9 of which
were multi-party coalitions. Still restive, Sunni Arabs (20% of the overall population) boycotted,
winning only 17 Assembly seats, and only 1 seat on the 51-seat Baghdad provincial council.
Moqtada Al Sadr, whose armed faction was then fighting U.S. forces, also boycotted the election.
The resulting transitional government included PUK leader Jalal Talabani as president and then
Da’wa party leader Ibrahim al-Jafari as prime minister. Sunni Arabs held the posts of Assembly
speaker, deputy president, one of the deputy prime ministers, and six ministers, including defense.

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Permanent Constitution2
A major task accomplished by the elected transitional Assembly was the drafting of a permanent
constitution, adopted in a public referendum of October 15, 2005. A 55-member drafting
committee in which Sunnis were underrepresented produced a draft providing for:

• The three Kurdish-controlled provinces of Dohuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah to
constitute a legal “region” administered by the Kurdistan Regional Government
(KRG), which would have its own elected president and parliament (Article 113).
• a December 31, 2007, deadline to hold a referendum on whether Kirkuk (Tamim
province) would join the Kurdish region (Article 140).
• designation of Islam as “a main source” of legislation.
• all orders of the CPA to be applicable until amended (Article 126), and a
“Federation Council” (Article 62), a second chamber with size and powers to be
determined in future law (not adopted to date).
• a 25% electoral goal for women (Article 47).
• families to choose which courts to use for family issues (Article 41); making only
primary education mandatory (Article 34).
• Islamic law experts and civil law judges to serve on the federal supreme court
(Article 89). Many Iraqi women opposed this and the previous provisions as
giving too much discretion to male family members.
• two or more provinces to join together to form new autonomous “regions.” This
provision was implemented by an October 2006 law on formation of regions.
• “regions” to organize internal security forces, legitimizing the fielding of the
Kurds’ peshmerga militia (Article 117). This continued a TAL provision.
• the central government to distribute oil and gas revenues from “current fields” in
proportion to population, and for regions to have a role in allocating revenues
from new energy discoveries (Article 109).
These provisions left many disputes unresolved, particularly the balance between central
government and regional and local authority. The TAL made approval of the constitution subject
to a veto if a two-thirds majority of voters in any three provinces voted it down. Sunnis registered
in large numbers (70%-85%) to try to defeat the constitution, despite a U.S.-mediated agreement
of October 11, 2005, to have a future vote on amendments to the constitution. The Sunni
provinces of Anbar and Salahuddin had a 97% and 82% “no” vote, respectively, but the
constitution was adopted because Nineveh province voted 55% “no”—short of the two-thirds
“no” majority needed to vote the constitution down.

Text of the Iraqi constitution is at

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December 15, 2005, Elections Establish the First Full-Term Goverment
The December 15, 2005, elections were for a full-term (four-year) national government (also in
line with the schedule laid out in the TAL). Each province contributed a set number of seats to a
“Council of Representatives” (COR), a formula adopted to attract Sunni participation. There were
361 political “entities,” including 19 multi-party coalitions, competing in a “closed list” voting
system (in which votes are cast only for parties and coalitions, not individual candidates). Voters
chose lists representing their sects and regions, and the Shiites and Kurds again emerged
dominant. The COR was inaugurated on March 16, 2006, but political infighting caused the
replacement of Jafari with another Da’wa figure, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, as Prime Minister.

On April 22, 2006, the COR approved Talabani to continue as president. His two deputies were
Adel Abd al-Mahdi (incumbent) of ISCI and Tariq al-Hashimi, leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party
(IIP). Another Sunni figure, Mahmoud Mashhadani, became COR speaker. Maliki won COR
approval of a 37-member cabinet on May 20, 2006, although permanent defense, interior, and
national security ministers were not selected until June 2006. Of the 37 posts, there were 19
Shiites; 9 Sunnis; 8 Kurds; and 1 Christian. Four were women.

2006-2011: Sectarian Conflict and U.S.-Assisted
The Bush Administration deemed the 2005 elections successful, but they did not resolve the
Sunni-Arab grievances over their diminished positions in the power structure. Subsequent events
worsened the violence by exposing and reinforcing the political weakness of the Sunni Arabs.
With tensions high, the bombing of a major Shiite shrine within the Sunni-dominated province of
Salahuddin in February 2006 set off major sectarian unrest, characterized in part by Sunni
insurgent activities against government and U.S. troops, high-casualty suicide and other
bombings, and the empowerment of Shiite militia factions to counter the Sunni acts. The sectarian
violence was so serious that many experts, by the end of 2006, were considering the U.S. mission
as failing, an outcome that an “Iraq Study Group” concluded was a significant possibility absent a
major change in U.S. policy.3

As assessments of possible overall U.S. policy failure multiplied, the Administration and Iraq
agreed in August 2006 on a series of “benchmarks” that, if adopted and implemented, might
achieve political reconciliation. Under Section 1314 of a FY2007 supplemental appropriation
(P.L. 110-28), “progress” on 18 political and security benchmarks—as assessed in Administration
reports due by July 15, 2007, and then September 15, 2007—was required for the United States to
provide $1.5 billion in Economic Support Funds (ESF) to Iraq. President Bush exercised the
waiver provision. The law also mandated an assessment by the Government Accountability
Office, by September 1, 2007, of Iraqi performance on the benchmarks, as well as an outside
assessment of the Iraqi security forces (ISF).

“The Iraq Study Group Report.” Vintage Books, 2006. The Iraq Study Group was funded by the conference report on
P.L. 109-234, FY2006 supplemental, which provided $1 million to the U.S. Institute of Peace for operations of an Iraq
Study Group. The legislation did not specify the Group’s exact mandate or its composition.

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In early 2007, the United States began a “surge” of about 30,000 additional U.S. forces (bringing
U.S. troop levels from their 2004-2006 baseline of about 138,000 to about 170,000) in order to
blunt insurgent momentum and take advantage of growing Sunni Arab rejection of extremist
groups. The Administration cited as partial justification for the surge the Iraq Study Group’s
recommendation of such a step. As 2008 progressed, citing the achievement of many of the major
Iraqi legislative benchmarks and a dramatic drop in sectarian violence, the Bush Administration
asserted that political reconciliation was advancing. However, U.S. officials maintained that the
extent and durability of the reconciliation would depend on implementation of adopted laws, on
further compromises among ethnic groups, and on continuing reductions in levels of violence.

United Nations Assistance Mission – Iraq (UNAMI)
The United Nation contributed to political reconciliation through its U.N. Assistance Mission—Iraq (UNAMI). The
head of UNAMI is also the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Iraq. The first head of the office was
killed in a car bombing on his headquarters in August 2003. Ad Melkert was the UNAMI head during 2009-2011. He
was replaced in September 2011 by Martin Kobler, who was replaced by Bulgarian diplomat Nickolay Mladenov in
September 2013. The mandate of UNAMI was established in 2003 and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2110 of July
24, 2013 provided the latest yearly renewal (until July 31, 2014). UNAMI’s primary activities have been to help build
civil society, assist vulnerable populations, consult on possible solutions to the Arab-Kurd dispute over Kirkuk
province (see below), and resolve the status of the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
that remains in Iraq (see below).

Iraqi Governance Strengthens As Sectarian Conflict Abates
The passage of Iraqi laws in 2008 that were considered crucial to reconciliation, continued
reductions in violence accomplished by the U.S. surge, and the Sunni militant turn away from
violence facilitated political stabilization. A March 2008 offensive ordered by Maliki against the
Sadr faction and other militants in Basra and environs (“Operation Charge of the Knights”)
pacified the city and caused many Sunnis and Kurds to see Maliki as willing to take on armed
groups even if they were Shiite. This contributed to a decision in July 2008 by several Sunni
ministers to end a one-year boycott of the cabinet.

Empowering Local Governance: 2008 Provincial Powers Law (Law No. 21)
In 2008, a “provincial powers law” (Law Number 21) was adopted to decentralize governance by
delineating substantial powers for provincial (governorate) councils. It replaced a 1969 Provinces
Law (Number 159). Under the 2008 law, the provincial councils enact provincial legislation,
regulations, and procedures, and choose the province’s governor and two deputy governors. The
provincial administrations draft provincial budgets and implement federal policies. Some central
government funds are given as grants directly to provincial administrations for their use. The term
of the provincial councils is four years from the date of their first convention.

Since enactment, Law 21 has been used on several occasions to try to pacify restive areas of Iraq.
Law 21 was amended substantially in late June 2013 to give the provincial governments
substantially more power, a move intended to satisfy the Sunnis. As a consequence of that and
other laws, provinces have a greater claim on Iraqi financial resources than do districts, and many
communities that dominate specific areas support converting their areas into provinces. In

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December 2013, the government decided to convert the district of Halabja – a symbolic city to
the Kurds because of Saddam’s use of chemical weapons there in 1988 – into a separate province.
On January 21, 2014, the government announced it had decided to convert several districts into
new provinces: Fallujah (in Anbar Province), a hotbed of Sunni restiveness; Tuz Khurmato (in
Salahuddin Province) and Tal Affar (in Nineveh Province), which both have Turkmen majorities;
and the Nineveh Plains (also in Nineveh), which has a mostly Assyrian Christian population. This
latter announcement came amid a major Sunni uprising in Anbar Province, and appeared clearly
intended to keep minorities and as many Sunnis as possible on the side of the Maliki government.

2009 Provincial Elections. After the 2008 provincial powers law was enacted, the next set of
provincial elections were planned for October 1, 2008, but were delayed when the Kurdish
opposition caused a presidential veto of a July 22, 2008 draft election law that provided for equal
division of power in Kirkuk (among Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans) until its status is finally
resolved. That proposal would have diluted Kurdish dominance there. On September 24, 2008,
the COR passed another election law, providing for the provincial elections by January 31, 2009,
but putting off provincial elections in Kirkuk and the three KRG provinces. In the elections, about
14,500 candidates vied for the 440 provincial council seats in the 14 Arab-dominated provinces of
Iraq. About 4,000 of the candidates were women. The average number of council seats per
province was about 30,4 down from a set number of 41 seats per province (except Baghdad) in the
2005-2009 councils. The Baghdad provincial council had 57 seats. The elections were conducted
on an “open list” basis—voters were able to vote for a party slate, or for an individual candidate
(although they also had to vote for that candidate’s slate). This procedure strengthened the ability
of political parties to choose who on their slate will occupy seats.5 About 17 million Iraqis (any
Iraqi 18 years of age or older) were eligible for the vote, which was run by the Iraqi Higher
Election Commission (IHEC). Pre-election violence was minimal. Turnout was about 51%,
somewhat lower than some expected.

The certified vote totals (March 29, 2009) gave Maliki’s “State of Law Coalition” (a coalition
composed of his Da’wa Party plus other mostly Shiite allies) a clear victory with 126 out of the
440 seats available (28%). ISCI went from 200 council seats to only 50, a result observers
attributed to its perceived close ties to Iran and its corruption. Iyad al-Allawi’s faction won 26
seats, a gain of eight seats, and a competing Sunni faction loyal to Tariq al-Hashimi won 32 seats,
a loss of about 15. Sunni tribal leaders, who were widely credited for turning Iraqi Sunnis against
Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Iraq, had boycotted the 2005 elections but participated in the 2009
elections. Their slate came in first in Anbar Province.

Within 15 days of that (by April 13, 2009) the provincial councils began to convene to elect a
provincial council chairperson and deputy chairperson. Within another 30 days after that (by May
12, 2009) the provincial councils selected (by absolute majority) a provincial governor and
deputy governors. Although Maliki’s State of Law coalition fared well, his party still needed to
strike bargains with rival factions to form provincial administrations. Subsequent provincial
elections in Arab-dominated provinces were held during April-June 2013, as discussed below.

Each provincial council has 25 seats plus one seat per each 200,000 residents over 500,000.
The threshold for winning a seat is the total number of valid votes divided by the number of seats up for election.

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The March 7, 2010, Elections: Shiites Fracture and Sunnis Cohere
After a strong showing for his list in the provincial elections, Maliki was favored to retain his
position in the March 7, 2010, COR elections that would choose the next government. Maliki
derived further political benefit from the U.S. implementation of the U.S.-Iraq “Security
Agreement” (SA), discussed below. Yet, as 2009 progressed, Maliki’s image as protector of law
and order was tarnished by several high-profile attacks, including major bombings in Baghdad on
August 20, 2009, in which almost 100 Iraqis were killed and the buildings housing the Ministry
of Finance and of Foreign Affairs were heavily damaged. As Maliki’s image of strong leadership
faded that year, Shiite unity broke down and a strong rival Shiite slate took shape—the “Iraqi
National Alliance (INA)” consisting of ISCI, the Sadrists, and other Shiite figures. The INA
coalition believed that each of its component factions would draw support from their individual
constituencies to produce an election victory.

To Sunni Arabs, the outwardly cross-sectarian Iraq National Movement (“Iraqiyya”) of former
transitional Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi (a broader coalition than his INA faction) had strong
appeal. There was an openly Sunni slate, leaning Islamist, called the Accordance, and some Sunni
figures joined Shiite slates in order to improve their chances of winning a seat.

Table 1. Major Coalitions for 2010 National Elections
State of Law Coalition Led by Maliki and his Da’wa Party. Included Anbar Salvation Front of Shaykh
Hatim al-Dulaymi, which is Sunni, and the Independent Arab Movement of Abd
(slate no. 337) al-Mutlaq al-Jabbouri. Appealed to Shiite sectarianism during the campaign by
backing the exclusion of candidates with links to outlawed Baath Party.
Iraqi National Alliance Formed in August 2009, considered the most formidable challenger to Maliki’s
slate. Consisted mainly of his Shiite competitors, including ISCI, the Sadrist
(slate no. 316) movement, the Fadilah Party, the Iraqi National Congress of Ahmad Chalabi, and
the faction of ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.
Iraqiyya Formed in October 2009 by former Prime Minister Iyad al-Allawi, who is Shiite,
although his faction is mainly Sunni, and Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlaq (ex-Baathist
(slate no. 333) leader of the National Dialogue Front). The coalition included the IIP and several
powerful Sunni individuals, including Usama al-Nujaifi and Rafi al-Issawi.
Kurdistan Alliance Competed again as a joint KDP-PUK Kurdish list. However, Kurdish solidarity
was shaken by July 25, 2009, Kurdistan elections in which a breakaway PUK
(slate no. 372) faction called Change (Gorran) did unexpectedly well. Gorran ran its own
separate list for the March 2010 elections.
Unity Alliance of Iraq Led by Interior Minister Jawad Bolani, a moderate Shiite, and included the Sunni
tribal faction of Shaykh Ahmad Abu Risha, brother of slain leader of the Sunni
(slate no. 348) Awakening movement in Anbar. The list also included first post-Saddam defense
minister Sadun al-Dulaymi.
Iraqi Accordance A coalition of Sunni parties, including some breakaway leaders of the IIP. Led by
Ayad al-Samarrai, then-speaker of the COR.
(slate no. 338)

Sources: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; various press.

Election Law and “De-Baathification” Controversies
While coalitions formed to challenge Maliki, disputes emerged over the ground rules for the
election. Under the Iraqi constitution, the elections were to be held by January 31, 2010, in order
to allow 45 days before the March 15, 2010, expiry of the COR’s term. Because the election law

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can shape the election outcome by determining voter eligibility, COR size, and other factors, the
major Iraqi communities were divided and the COR repeatedly missed self-imposed deadlines to
pass it. Many COR members leaned toward a closed list system, but those who wanted an open
list vote (allowing voters to vote for candidates as well as coalition slates) prevailed. Sunnis lost
their struggle to have “reserved seats” for Iraqis in exile; many Sunnis had gone into exile after
the fall of Saddam Hussein. Each province served as a single constituency (see Table 2 for the
number of seats per province).

The version of the election law passed by the COR on November 8, 2009 (141 out of 195 COR
deputies voting), expanded the size of the COR to 325 total seats. Of these, 310 were allocated by
province, with the constituency sizes ranging from Baghdad’s 68 seats to Muthanna’s seven. The
COR size, in the absence of a recent census, was based on taking 2005 population figures and
adding 2.8% per year growth.6 The remaining 15 seats were to be minority reserved seats (8) and
“compensatory seats” (7)—seats allocated from “leftover” votes for parties and slates that did not
meet a minimum threshold to win any seat.

De-Baathification Candidate Vetting. The 2010 electoral process was at least partly intended to
bring Sunni Arabs further into the political structure. That goal was jeopardized by a major
dispute over candidate eligibility for the March 2010 elections. In January 2010, the Justice and
Accountability Commission (JAC, the successor to the “De-Baathification Commission” that
worked since the fall of Saddam to purge former Baathists from government) invalidated the
candidacies of 499 individuals (out of 6,500 candidates running) on many different slates. The
JAC was headed by Ali al-Lami, but was heavily influenced by Ahmad Chalabi, who had headed
the De-Baathification Commission. Both are Shiites, leading many to believe that the
disqualifications represented an attempt to exclude prominent Sunnis. Appeals reinstated many of
them, although about 300 had already been replaced by other candidates on their respective slates,
including senior Iraqiyya figure Saleh al-Mutlaq. Al Lami was assassinated on May 26, 2011,
presumably by Sunnis who viewed him as an architect of the perceived discrimination. Maliki
later named the Minister for Human Rights to serve as JAC chairman concurrently. The JAC
continues to vet candidates.

2010 Election and Results
There were about 6,170 total candidates spanning 85 coalitions that ran in the elections. The
major blocs are depicted in Table 1. Total turnout was about 62%, according to the IHEC. The
final count was announced on March 26, 2010. As noted in Table 2, Iraqiyya won a narrow
plurality of seats (two-seat margin over Maliki’s State of Law slate). The Iraqi constitution
(Article 73) mandates that the COR “bloc with the largest number” of members gets the first
opportunity to form a government and Allawi demanded the first opportunity to form a
government. However, on March 28, 2010, Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled that a coalition that forms
after the election could be deemed to meet that requirement, denying Allawi the first opportunity
to form a government. The vote was to have been certified by April 22, 2010, but factional
disputes delayed the certification. After appeals of some of the results, Iraq’s Supreme Court
certified the results on June 1, 2010, triggering the following timelines:

Analysis of Iraq expert Reidar Visser. “The Hashemi Veto.”

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• Fifteen days after certification (by June 15, 2010), the new COR was to be seated
and to elect a COR speaker and deputy speaker. (The deadline to convene was
met, although, as noted, the COR did not elect a leadership team and did not meet
again until November 11, 2010.)
• After electing a speaker, but with no deadline, the COR was to choose a president
(by a two-thirds vote). (According to Article 138 of the Iraqi constitution, after
this election, Iraq is to have a president and at least one vice president—the
“presidency council” concept was an interim measure that expired at the end of
the first full-term government.)
• Within another 15 days, the largest COR bloc is tapped by the president to form a
• Within another 30 days (by December 25, 2010), the prime minister-designate is
to present a cabinet to the COR for confirmation (by majority vote).

Post-Election Government
Part of the difficulty forming a government after the election was the perception that Iraqi politics
is a “winner take all” proposition. In accordance with timelines established in the Constitution,
the newly elected COR convened on June 15, 2010, but the session ended abruptly without
electing a COR leadership team. With talks on forming a government deadlocked through the
summer, on October 1, 2010, Maliki received the backing of most of the 40 COR Sadrist
deputies. Despite Maliki’s reliance on Sadrist support, the Obama Administration backed a
second Maliki term while demanding that Maliki form a government inclusive of Sunni leaders.

On November 10, 2010, with reported direct intervention by President Obama, the “Irbil
Agreement” among major factions was finalized in which (1) Maliki and Talabani would remain
in their offices for another term; (2) Iraqiyya would be extensively represented in government—
one of its figures would become COR Speaker, another would be defense minister, and another
(presumably Allawi himself) would chair an oversight body called the “National Council for
Strategic Policies”;7 and (3) de-Baathification laws would be eased.

Second Full-Term Government (2010-2014) Formed8
At the November 11, 2010, COR session to implement the agreement, Iraqiyya figure Usama al-
Nujaifi (brother of Nineveh Governor Atheel Nujaifi) was elected COR speaker. Several days
later, Talabani was reelected president and Talabani tapped Maliki as prime minister-designate,
giving him until December 25, 2010, to achieve COR confirmation of a cabinet. That requirement
as accomplished on December 21, 2010. Among major outcomes were the following:

• As for the State of Law list, Maliki remained prime minister, and retained for
himself the Defense, Interior, and National Security (minister of state) posts
pending permanent nominees for those positions. The faction took seven other
cabinet posts, in addition to the post of first vice president (Khudayr al Khuzai of

Fadel, Leila and Karen DeYoung. “Iraqi Leaders Crack Political Deadlock.” Washington Post, November 11, 2010.
The following information is taken from Iraqi news accounts presented in

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the Da’wa Party) and deputy prime minister for energy issues (Hussein
Shahristani, previously the oil minister).
• For Iraqiyya, Saleh al-Mutlaq was appointed a deputy Prime Minister; Tariq al-
Hashimi remained a vice president (second of three). The bloc also obtained nine
ministerial posts, including Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi (previously a deputy
prime minister).
• The Iraqi National Alliance obtained 13 cabinet positions, parceled out among its
various factions. The Sadrists got eight ministries, including Housing, Labor and
Social Affairs, Ministry of Planning, and Tourism and Antiquities, as well as one
of two deputy COR speakerships. An INA technocrat, Abd al Karim Luaibi, was
appointed oil minister. A Fadilah party member, Bushra Saleh, became minister
of state without portfolio and the only woman in the cabinet at that time.
• The Kurdistan Alliance received major posts aside from Talabani. The third
deputy prime minister is Kurdish/PUK figure Rows Shaways, who has served in
various central and KRG positions since the fall of Saddam. Arif Tayfour is
second deputy COR speaker. Alliance members had six other cabinet seats,
including longtime Kurdish (KDP) stalwart Hoshyar Zebari remaining as foreign
minister (a position he has held throughout the post-Saddam periods). Khairallah
Hassan Babakir was named trade minister in February 13, 2011.

Post-U.S. Withdrawal Political Unraveling
The power-sharing agreement only temporarily muted, but did not resolve, the underlying
differences among the major communities. Maliki’s opponents have accused him of undermining
the Irbil Agreement and seeking to concentrate power in his and his faction’s hands. Critics assert
that he has monopolized control of the key security ministries—Defense, Interior, and National
Security (intelligence)—by appointing allies as acting ministers of those ministries. Sadun
Dulaymi, a Sunni Arab, is acting Defense Minister; Falih al-Fayad, a Shiite, is acting Minister of
State for National Security; and Adnan al-Asadi, another Shiite, is acting Interior Minister.
Through his Office of the Commander-in-Chief, Maliki directly commands the 10,000 person
Counter-Terrorism Service, of which about 4,100 are Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF).
These forces are tasked with countering militant groups, although Maliki’s critics assert that he
uses them to intimidate his senior Sunni critics and Iraq’s Sunnis more broadly.

Critics assert that Maliki also has put under his executive control several supposedly independent
bodies. In late 2010, he successfully requested that Iraq’s Supreme Court rule that the
Independent Higher Election Commission (IHEC) that runs Iraq’s elections and the Commission
of Integrity, the key anti-corruption body be supervised by the cabinet.9 In March 2012, Maliki
also asserted governmental control over the Central Bank.

Maliki’s centralization of power provided “political space” for long-standing violent Sunni
elements to revive after the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Violent Sunni elements—weakened but
not eliminated by the United States during 2003-2011, have sought to reinforce peaceful Sunni
protesters; undermine confidence in the ISF; expel Shiite members of the ISF from Sunni areas;

Parker, Ned and Salar Jaff. “Electoral Ruling Riles Maliki’s Rivals.” Los Angeles Times, January 23, 2011.

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and reignite the sectarian war that prevailed during 2006-2008. All of these motivations, in the
view of the militants, could have the effect of destabilizing Maliki and his Shiite-led rule. To try
to accomplish these goals, Sunni militant groups have attacked pilgrims to the various Shiite
shrines and holy sites in Iraq; Shiite neighborhoods and businesses; ISF personnel; government
installations; and some Sunnis who are cooperating with the government.

Al Qaeda in Iraq/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
Iraq’s Al Qaeda affiliate constitutes the most violent component of the Sunni rebellion that s been
escalating since 2011 and has reached a new level of threat to Iraqi security in early 2014.
Progressively merging with similarly named elements of the opposition in neighboring Syria, the
group currently operates in Iraq under the name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (or,
alternately, the Syria, ISIL (ISIS). The leader of AQ-I/ISIL is Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi. U.S.
officials estimated in November 2011 that there might be 800-1,000 AQ-I/ISIL members, of
which some are involved in media or operations finance.10 An antecedent of AQ-I/ISIL was
named by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in March 2004 and the
designation applies to AQ-I/ISIL. Although AQ-I/ISIL has focused on influencing the future of
Iraq and, later, in Syria, the group has allegedly been responsible for some past attacks in Jordan.
In October 2012, Jordanian authorities disrupted an alleged plot by AQ-I/ISIL to bomb multiple
targets in Amman, Jordan, possibly including the U.S. Embassy there. In concert with the group’s
links to the Syria conflict, Baghdadi reportedly relocated to or spends substantial time in Syria.
However, the group does not appear to have close links to remaining senior Al Qaeda leaders
believed mostly still in Pakistan or to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen.

Attacks in Iraq attributed to AQ-I/ISIL escalated significantly after an assault on Sunni protesters
in the town of Hawija incident on April 23, 2013. According to some experts, AQ-I/ISIL is now
able to carry out about 40 mass casualty attacks per month, much more than the 10 per month of
2010, and many AQ-I/ISIL attacks now span multiple cities.11 In 2013, experts said that AQ-
I/ISIL was asserting control of territory, particularly in restive and overwhelmingly Sunni Anbar
province,12 including operating some training camps in areas close to the Syria border. A stark
indication of AQ-I/ISIL’s increased freedom of action came on July 21, 2013, when the group
attacked prisons at Abu Ghraib and Taji; the Taji attack failed but the attacks on Abu Ghraib freed
several hundred purported AQ-I/ISIL members. Iraq recaptured or killed about 20% of those who
escaped, but the attack on the heavily fortified Abu Ghraib—involving the use of suicide
attackers and conventional tactics—shook confidence in the ISF. The head of the National
Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, told Congress on November 14, 2013, that AQ-I/ISIL is the
strongest it has been since its peak in 2006.13 During his visit to Washington, DC, during October
29-November 1, 2013, Maliki attributed virtually all the ongoing violence in Iraq to “terrorists”
affiliated with AQ-I/ISIL, and downplayed the broader political perceptions of Sunnis as a source
of unrest.14

Michael Schmidt and Eric Schmitt. “Leaving Iraq, U.S. Fears New Surge of Qaeda Terror.” New York Times,
November 6, 2011.
Michael Knights. “Rebuilding Iraq’s Counterterrorism Capabilities.” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, July
31, 2013.
Ben Van Heuvelen. “Al Qaeda-Linked Group Gaining Ground in Iraq.” Washington Post, December 8, 2013.
Eileen Sullivan. “Official: Al-Qaida in Iraq Strongest Since 2006.” Associated Press, November 14, 2013.
Prime Minister Maliki address at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Attended by the author, October 31, 2013.

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Naqshabandi Order (JRTN)
Some groups that were prominent during the insurgency against U.S. forces remain allied with
AQ-I/ISIL or active independently as part of the Sunni unrest. One such Sunni group, linked to
ex-Baathists, is the Naqshabandi Order, known by its Arabic acronym “JRTN.”15 It is based
primarily in Nineveh province and has been designated by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist
Organization (FTO). Prior to the escalation of Sunni violence in 2013, the JRTN was responsible
primarily for attacks on U.S. facilities in northern Iraq, which might have contributed to the State
Department decision in mid-2012 to close the Kirkuk consulate. The faction has supported the
Sunni demonstrations, and in February 2013 Sunnis linked to the JRTN circulated praise for the
protests from the highest ranking Saddam regime figure still at large, Izzat Ibrahim al Duri. Other
rebels are said to be linked to long-standing insurgent groups such as the 1920 Revolution
Brigades or the Islamic Army of Iraq.

Pro-Government Armed Sunni Groups: Sons of Iraq Fighters
One Sunni grievance aside from those discussed above has been the slow pace with which the
Maliki government implemented its pledge to fully integrate the approximately 100,000 “Sons of
Iraq” fighters. Also known as “Awakening” fighters, these are former insurgents who in 2006
began cooperating with U.S. forces against AQ-I/ISIL. The Iraqi government later promised them
integration into the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) or government jobs. To date, about 70,000 have
been integrated into the ISF or given civilian government jobs, while 30,000-40,000 continue to
man checkpoints in Sunni areas and are paid about $300 per month by the government. In part to
preserve the loyalty of the Sons of Iraq, in early 2013 the government increased their salaries by
about 66% to $500 per month. The effort appeared to succeed in that the bulk of the Sons of Iraq
fighters did not join the AQ-I/ISIL–led uprising in early 2014. Many of them, supplied with new
weapons and funding by the Maliki government, are helping put down the insurrection.

Political Crises Begin After U.S. Withdrawal
With underlying Sunni resentments unresolved and militant and other armed groups above still
active, political disputes among major factions intensified as U.S. forces left Iraq. In November
2011, security forces arrested 600 Sunnis for involvement in an alleged coup plot. On December
19, 2011, the day after the final U.S. withdrawal (December 18, 2011)—and one week after
Maliki met with President Obama in Washington, DC, on December 12, 2011—the government
announced an arrest warrant against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a major Sunni Iraqiyya
figure, for allegedly ordering his security staff to commit acts of assassination. Hashimi fled to
the KRG region and refused to return to face trial in Baghdad unless his conditions for a fair trial
there were met. A trial in absentia in Baghdad convicted him and sentenced him to death on
September 9, 2012, for the alleged killing of two Iraqis. Hashimi remains in Turkey, where he
eventually fled.

The arrest cast doubt on President Obama’s assertion, marking the U.S. withdrawal, that Iraq is
now “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.” U.S. officials immediately attempted to contain the
crisis by intervening with the various political factions. The effort produced some results when

The acronym stands for Jaysh al-Rijal al-Tariq al-Naqshabandi, which translated means Army of the Men of the
Naqshabandi Order.

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Maliki arranged the release of some of the Baathists arrested in early 2012 and agreed to legal
amendments to give provinces more budgetary autonomy and the right of consent when national
security forces are deployed.16 (These concessions were included in a revised provincial powers
law adopted by the COR in June 2013, as discussed above.) The concessions prompted Iraqiyya
COR deputies and ministers to resume their duties by early February 2012.

In March 2012, the factions tentatively agreed to hold a “national conference,” to be chaired by
President Talabani, respected as an even-handed mediator, to try to reach a durable political
solution. However, late that month KRG President Barzani accused Maliki of a “power grab” and
the conference was not held. Maliki critics Allawi, COR speaker Osama Nujaifi, and Moqtada Al
Sadr met in April 2012 in the KRG region and subsequently collected signatures from 176 COR
deputies to request a no-confidence vote against Maliki’s government. Under Article 61 of the
constitution, signatures of 20% of the 325 COR deputies (65 signatures) are needed to trigger a
vote, but President Talabani (who is required to present a valid request to the COR to hold the
vote) stated on June 10, 2012 that there were an insufficient number of valid signatures remaining
to proceed with that vote.17 Maliki apparently convinced many Sadrists COR deputies to remove
their signatures. Maliki also reinstated deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq as part of an effort
to reach out to Sunni leaders.

Political Crisis Contributes to Reopening Sectarian Rift in 2013
Political disputes flared again after the widely respected political mediator President Talabani
suffered a stroke on December 18, 2012. The day he was flown out of Iraq for treatment on
December 20, 2012, Maliki moved against another perceived Sunni adversary, Finance Minister
Rafi al-Issawi, by arresting 10 of his bodyguards. That action touched off anti-Maliki
demonstrations in the Sunni cities of Anbar, Salahuddin, and Nineveh provinces, as well as in
Sunni districts of Baghdad. Talabani remained in Germany for rehabilitation, and second Vice
President Khudayr Khuzai has served as acting President, although there are indications Talabani
might return to Iraq in early 2014 to resume his duties.

As demonstrations continued, what had been primarily disputes among elites was transformed
into substantial public unrest. The thrust of the Sunni complaints was based on perceived
discrimination by the Shiite-dominated Maliki government. Some Sunni demonstrators were
reacting not only to the moves against senior Sunni leaders, but also to the fact that the
overwhelming number of prisoners in Iraq’s jails are Sunnis, according to Human Rights Watch
researchers. Sunni demonstrators demanded the release of prisoners, particularly women; a repeal
of “Article 4” anti-terrorism laws under which many Sunnis are incarcerated; reform or end to the
de-Baathification laws that has been used against Sunnis; and improved government services.18

During January-March 2013, the use of small amounts of force against demonstrators caused the
unrest to worsen. On January 25, 2013, the ISF killed nine protesters on a day when
oppositionists killed two ISF police officers. Sunni demonstrators protested every Friday during
that period, and began to set up encampments in some cities. Some observers believe that the
protest movement was emboldened by the Sunni-led rebellion in neighboring Syria.

Tim Arango. “Iraq’s Prime Minister Gains More Power After Political Crisis.” New York Times, February 28, 2012.
“Embattled Iraqi PM Holding On To Power for Now.” Associated Press, June 12, 2012.
Author conversations with Human Rights Watch researchers, March 2013.

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Politically, the escalating Sunni unrest caused further rifts at the leadership level. The COR
passed a law limiting Maliki to two terms (meaning he could not serve again after 2014
elections), although Iraq’s Supreme Court struck that law down in mid-2013. Issawi resigned as
Finance Minister and took refuge in Anbar province with Sunni tribal leaders, some of whom
Maliki ordered arrested. In March 2013, Kurdish ministers suspended their participation in the
central government. Maliki tried, without success to date, to mollify the Sunni leaders and
protesters by forming a committee, headed by deputy Prime Minister Shahristani, to examine
protester grievances and suggest reforms. He released some imprisoned Sunnis, including 300
released on January 14, 2013. On the other hand, he signaled that he might formally abandon the
power-sharing arrangement and further reduce Sunni participation in the central government.

Escalation of Violence Since April 2013 Hawijah Incident
On April 23, 2013, three days after the first group of provinces voted, the ISF stormed a Sunni
protest camp in the town of Hawijah, near the mostly Kurdish city of Kirkuk. About 40 civilians
and three ISF personnel were killed in the battle that ensued. In the following days, many Sunni
demonstrators and tribal leaders took up arms and called on followers to arm themselves. Sunni
gunmen took over government buildings in the town of Suleiman Pak for a few days. At the
political level, Iraqiyya pulled out of the COR entirely, and three Sunni ministers resigned. In a
speech to the nation on April 24, 2013, Maliki urged dialogue but also stated that the ISF “must
impose security in Iraq.”

U.S. officials reportedly pressed Maliki not to use the military to suppress Sunni protests, arguing
that such a strategy has led to all-out civil war in neighboring Syria, and also worked with Sunni
tribal leaders to appeal for calm. On April 30, 2013, following meetings with central government
members, Kurdish leaders agreed to return Kurdish ministers to their positions in Baghdad. In
May 2013 Maliki shuffled his top security forces command, in part to sideline figures that Sunnis
blame for ordering attacks on protesters.

Death Toll in 2013 and 2014. Even as the major factions tried to restore mutual trust, Sunni Arab
attacks on government forces, Shiite gathering places, and even against other Sunnis cooperating
with the government escalated. Many of these attacks—particularly the simultaneous multiple-
target attacks—were carried out by AQ-I/ISIL that derived support from Sunnis resentful of
Maliki’s perceived efforts to marginalize the Sunni community politically and economically.
According to the U.N. Assistance Mission-Iraq (UNAMI), about 9,000 Iraqis were killed in 2013,
of which all but about 1,000 were civilians, and the remainder were members of the ISF. This is
more than double the death toll for all of 2010, and it is the highest total since the height of the
sectarian conflict in 2006-2007, although casualties are still about 60% below those levels. Still,
even before the late 2013 ISIL uprising discussed below, some observers assessed that the Iraq
was reverting to sectarian conflict.

Tentative signs emerged in the summer of 2013 that Shiite armed groups might be reactivating to
retaliate against the Sunni-led attacks on the Shiite community. The ISF, which is largely Shiite
and perceived by Sunnis as aligned with the Shiite community, has put significant security
measures into effect in Baghdad. These included the establishment of numerous checkpoints and
restricting movements of cars in order to be able to check the contents of each one. Sunnis
complain that these measures are discriminatory and essentially confine them to enclaves. The

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abduction and killing of 18 Sunnis in Baghdad on November 29, 2013 was allegedly carried out
by Shiite militiamen.19

The violence continued despite efforts at compromise. In June 2013 the COR amended the 2008
provincial powers law (No. 21, see above) to give the provinces substantially more authority
relative to the central government, including some control over security forces (Article 31-10).
The revisions also specify a share of revenue to be given to the provinces and mandate that within
two years, control of the province-based operations of central government ministries be
transferred to the provincial governments.20 In July 2013, the cabinet approved a package of
reforms easing the de-Baathification laws to allow many former Baathists to hold government
positions—a key demand of the Sunni protesters. In addition, Maliki engaged some of the Sunni
leaders he formally sought to marginalize, including deputy Prime Minister Mutlaq and some
members of Allawi’s Iraqiyya faction. During his visit to Washington, D.C. during October 2013,
Maliki denied he has sought to marginalize Sunni leaders and asserted that all his actions were
taken under his authority in the Iraqi constitution.21

April 2013 Provincial Elections Occur Amid the Tensions
The escalating violence affected, but did not derail, provincial elections scheduled for early 2013.
The mandate of the nine-member IHEC, which runs the election, expired at the end of April 2012,
and the COR confirmed a new panel in September 2012. On October 30, 2012, the IHEC set an
April 20, 2013, election date, while deciding that provincial elections would not be held in the
three KRG-controlled provinces or in the province of Kirkuk. The COR’s law to govern the
election for the 447 provincial council seats (including those in Anbar and Nineveh that voted on
June 20, 2013) passed in December 2012, providing for an open list vote. The deadline for party
registration for the provincial elections was November 25, 2012, and 261 political entities
registered. By a deadline of December 20, 2012, 50 coalitions registered to run. By a deadline of
December 25, 2012, about 8,150 individual candidates had registered. The JAC excluded about
200 candidates for alleged Baathist ties, but that figure was lower than the number many Sunnis
expected. Because of the escalating violence, the government postponed the elections in two
Sunni provinces, Anbar and Nineveh, until June 20, 2013. The KRG set September 21, 2013, to
vote for Kurdistan National Assembly elections, but not a vote for any other posts, as discussed

The results appeared to demonstrate that most Iraqis want to rebuild political power-sharing. With
the April 20, 2013, vote being held mostly in Shiite areas, the election was largely a test of
Maliki’s popularity. Maliki’s State of Law coalition remained relatively intact, consisting mostly
of Shiite parties, including Fadilah (Virtue) and the ISCI-offshoot the Badr Organization. ISCI
registered its own “Citizen Coalition” (the name of its bloc in the COR), and Sadr registered a
separate “Coalition of Liberals.” Among the mostly Sunni groupings, Allawi’s Iraqiyya and 18
smaller entities ran as the “Iraqi National United Coalition.” A separate “United Coalition”
consisted of supporters of the Nujaifis (COR speaker and Nineveh governor), Vice President
Tariq al-Hashimi, and Rafi al-Issawi. A third Sunni coalition is loyal to Saleh al-Mutlaq. The two
main Kurdish parties ran under the Co-Existence and Fraternity Alliance.
Duraid Adnan. “18 Are Found Shot to Death After Abduction in Baghdad.” New York Times, November 30, 2013.
Reidar Vissar. “Provincial Powers Revisions, Elections Results for Anbar and Nineveh: Is Iraq Headed for Complete
Disintegration?” June 27, 2013.
Prime Minister Maliki address at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Attended by the author, October 31, 2013.

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Turnout on April 20, 2013, was estimated at about 50% of registered voters. Election day
violence was minimal, although 16 Sunni candidates were assassinated prior to the election.
According to results finalized on May 19, 2013, Maliki’s State of Law won a total of about 112
seats—about 22%, down from the 29% it won in 2009, but a plurality in 7 of the 12 provinces
that voted. The loss of some of its seats cost Maliki’s list control of the key provincial councils of
Baghdad and Basra. ISCI’s Citizen Coalition won back some of the losses it suffered in the 2009
elections, winning a total of about 75 seats. Sadr’s slate won a reported total of about 59 seats,
including a plurality in Maysan province. Among Sunnis, the United Coalition bested the
Iraqiyya-led coalition, an outcome most relevant in the two majority Sunni provinces that voted
that day—Diyala and Salahuddin. However, in Salahuddin, a local coalition headed by the
governor of the province won a plurality.

The June 20, 2013, election in Anbar and Nineveh was primarily a contest among the Sunni
blocs. In heavily Sunni Anbar, the Nujaifi bloc won a slight plurality, but newly emerging leaders
there selected as governor Ahmad Khalaf al-Dulaimi, who expresses interest in working with the
Maliki government. In Nineveh, where the Nujaifis previously held an outright majority of
provincial council seats (19 or 37), Kurds won 11 out of the province’s 39 seats. The Nujaifi
grouping came in second with eight seats, but Atheel Nujaifi was selected to another term as
governor. The results suggested to some experts that many Sunnis want to avoid a return to
sectarian conflict.22

April 30, 2014, COR Elections
The escalating violence has the potential to disrupt the COR elections planned for 2014, although
preparations are well under way and there is no open Iraqi government discussion of a
postponement. Because a new government is chosen by the elected parliament, postponing the
election in some provinces, such as the ones where the ISIL-led uprising is under way, would
certainly cloud the formation of the next government. However, continuing violence in the Sunni
provinces could cause Sunnis there not to vote and that, too, would cast doubt on the legitimacy
of the results.

An election law to regulate the election was the subject of debate primarily between the Kurds
and Maliki’s allies, delaying passage of the election law until November 4, 2013—slightly
beyond the IHEC-imposed deadline of October 31. The Kurds had sought to have the 2005
election system used, in which all of Iraq is considered one district. Maliki and other Shiites
prevailed in their preference to use the system employed in the 2010 elections, in which voters
cast votes in specific districts. The election law expanded the number of seats of the new COR to
328, an increase of three seats (all three are from the KRG region).

A total of 40 coalitions have registered to run. Maliki’s State of Law bloc remains relatively intact
and, by accounts of observers, he seeks to retain his prime ministership as an outcome of the
election. However, his strongest challenge appears to come from rival Shiite factions rather than
from a large Sunni alliance such as Iraqiyya. The Iraqiyya bloc has largely fragmented into
components led by various Sunni and other leaders. The Shiite faction of Moqtada Al Sadr, on the
other hand, plans to try to mount a strong challenge against State of Law slate and deny Maliki a
third term. Sadr himself, in recent interviews, has criticized Maliki for failing to take adequate
steps to heal the rifts with Sunni leaders and the Sunni population. The major Kurdish factions are
Kirk Sowell. “Sunni Voters and Iraq’s Provincial Elections.” July 12, 2013.

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competing independently, rather than as an Alliance that was the case in virtually all previous
elections. The April 30, 2014 elections will also include elections for 89 total seats on the
provincial councils in the three KRG provinces.

Major Uprising Flares in Late 2013
The latest upsurge in Sunni Arab unrest dates to December 26, 2013 when Maliki sought the
arrest of Sunni parliamentarian Ahmad al-Alwani on charges of inciting anti-government activity.
The arrest prompted a gun battle with security forces that killed Alwani’s brother and several of
his bodyguards. Maliki subsequently ordered security forces to close down a protest tent camp in
Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. That action prompted significant rebellion in both Ramadi
and Fallujah by ISIL, later spreading, to lesser degrees, to other Sunni cities in and outside Anbar.
Both Ramadi and Fallujah were major objectives of U.S. counterinsurgency efforts during the
Iraq war. ISIL fighters, joined by some Sunni protesters, defectors from the Iraq Security Forces
(ISF), and some Sons of Iraq and other tribal fighters, took over major parts of both Ramadi and
Fallujah and burned police stations in these cities, freed prisoners, and captured or destroyed
many ISF vehicles. Most Sons of Iraq fighters appear to have obeyed the urgings of many tribal
leaders’ urgings to back the government and help suppress the ISIL-led insurrection.

Maliki at first ordered a pullout of the Iraqi Army to leave the restive cities under the control of
mostly Sunni Iraqi police, but he later appeared ready to order an all-out ISF assault on ISIL
camps and fighter concentrations. Partly at the urging of U.S. officials, Maliki subsequently
settled on a strategy of providing weapons and funding to Sunni tribal leaders and fighters who
stood with the government, allowing them time to expel the ISIL fighters themselves. Maliki also
signaled compromise by ordering the arrest of a Shiite hardliner, “Mukhtar Army” leader Wahtiq
al-Batat and ordered the ISF to cease attacking homes—a gesture to the Sunni populations of the
restive cities. By the end of the first week of January 2014, the government had regained most of
Ramadi, but pro-government tribalists were still struggling to regain full control of Fallujah. As of
early February 2014, the pro-government fighters were preparing to advance in that city
neighborhood by neighborhood to clear ISIL fighters. As a result of the insurrection, an estimate
140,000 Iraqis have left Anbar Province, relocating mostly to Baghdad according to press

U.S. Response to the Insurrection. The U.S. response to the escalating violence in Iraq over the
past two years has been gradual and relatively limited, but the early 2014 insurrection appears to
have caused the Obama Administration to take a more active role in Iraq. On January 5, 2014,
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would provide the Iraqi government help to
deal with the crisis, but he directly ruled out the possibility of U.S. re-introduction of ground
troops to Iraq.23 As outlined below, including in House Foreign Affairs Committee testimony of
February 5, 2014 by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, the United States is
encouraging Maliki to take a “holistic” strategy of combatting ISIL and also accommodating his
Sunni opponents. The United States has:

• Delivered and sold additional weaponry. In late December 2013, the Defense
Department sent 75 HELLFIRE missiles as well as unarmed surveillance drones
to the ISF for use against ISIS camps. However, the missiles were for use by

Loveday Morris and Anne Gearan. “Kerry Says U.S. Will Help Iraq Against al-Qaeda but Won’t Send Troops Back
In.” Washington Post, January 5, 2014.

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Iraq’s propeller-driven aircraft, because the Administration turned down an Iraqi
request to transfer armed drones for that same purpose. On January 23, the
Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) formally notified Congress of a
proposed sale to Iraq of an additional 500 HELLFIRES and associated training
and equipment, at an estimated cost of $82 million. The Administration also
obtained the concurrence of Congress to release for sale and lease 30 “Apache”
attack helicopters to Iraq. The lease of six of the helicopters, with an estimated
cost of about $1.37 billion, might be concluded by mid-2014. The 24 to be sold
would be delivered by 2017, with an estimated value of $4.8 billion. Some in
Congress had earlier held up provision of these aircraft out of concerns that the
Iraqi government would use the attack helicopters against non-violent opponents.
• Additional Training. The Department of Defense has increased “bilateral and
regional training opportunities for Iraqi counterterrorism (CT) units. And Iraq
and Jordan are discussing advanced training for Iraqi forces in Jordan.24 The
training would presumably help burnish ISF counter-insurgency skills that,
according to several experts, have lapsed since the departure of U.S. troops in
• Efforts at Accommodation. U.S. officials, including Vice President Biden, who is
reported to have played a major role in the Administration’s Iraq policy to date,
reportedly have been in contact with Maliki and his Sunni and Kurdish opponents
to encourage dialogue and accommodation. As noted above, in an apparent
gesture to the Sunnis community and minority communities in the north, on
January 21, 2014 the Iraqi government announced a plan to create three new
provinces, including one centered on the restive city of Fallujah. Provinces are
able to obtain and control financial resources more readily than subordinate

KRG-Central Government Disputes25
Since the end of the U.S.-led war to liberate Kuwait in early 1991, the United States has played a
role in protecting Iraq’s Kurdish autonomy. Iraq’s Kurds have tried to preserve this “special
relationship” with the United States and use it to their advantage. Most senior Iraq’s Kurdish
leaders have long said they do not seek outright independence or affiliation with Kurds in
neighboring countries, but rather to secure and expand the autonomy they have achieved in Iraq.
However, the issues dividing the KRG and Baghdad have appeared to defy resolution, leading
some Kurdish figures to predict the region might seek independence over the next several years.

Although mostly unified in their dealings with Baghdad, the Iraqi Kurds have long been divided
between two main factions—the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, and the Kurdistan
Democratic Party, KDP. The two have abided by a power sharing arrangement formalized in
2007. The KRG has a President, Masoud Barzani, directly elected in July 2009, an elected
Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA, sometimes called the Kurdistan Parliament of Iraq, or KPI),
and an appointed Prime Minister. Since January 2012, the KRG Prime Minister has been

“U.S. Seeks to Resume Training of Iraqi Commandos.” Dow Jones Newswire, January 9, 2014; Statement of Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. February 5, 2014.
For more information on Kurd-Baghdad disputes, see CRS Report RS22079, The Kurds in Post-Saddam Iraq, by
Kenneth Katzman.

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Nechirvan Barzani (Masoud’s nephew), who returned to that post after three years in which the
post was held by PUK senior figure Barham Salih. Masoud Barzani’s son, Suroor, heads a KRG
“national security council.” Over the past five years, however, a new faction has emerged as a
significant group in Kurdish politics – Gorran (Change), a PUK breakaway.

The Iraqi Kurds also—as permitted in the Iraqi constitution—field their own force of peshmerga
(Kurdish militiamen) numbering perhaps 75,000 fighters. They are generally lightly armed.
Kurdish leaders continue to criticize Maliki for paying out of the national budget only about half
of the total peshmerga force (those who are under the control of the KRG’s Ministry of
Peshmerga Affairs). However, about half are not incorporated into this structure and are funded
out of the KRG budget. The KRG is in the process of reforming the peshmerga into a smaller but
more professional and well trained force.

KRG-Baghdad tensions have at times verged on boiling over. Following a visit to Washington,
DC, in April 2012 and since, Barzani has threatened to hold a vote on Kurdish independence
unless Maliki holds to his pledges of power-sharing and resolves major issues with the KRG.26 As
noted, Kurds in the COR joined the failed 2012 effort to vote no confidence against Maliki. The
animosity continued in 2013, but the Kurdish leadership and Maliki have continued to engage and
exchange views and visits, calming tensions to some extent. Maliki made his first visit to Irbil in
two years on June 10, 2013 and Barzani visited Bagdhad on July 7, 2013, Barzani’s first since late
2010. The two sides subsequently established seven joint committees to try to resolve the major
disputes between them.27 Some reports suggest that the Kurdish leaders might accept Maliki’s
selection to a third term as Prime Minister.

As do political tensions, disputes between the forces of the two political entities sometimes comes
close to major conflict. In November 2012, a commercial dispute between an Arab and Kurd in
Tuz Khurmatu, a town in Salahuddin Province straddling the Baghdad-KRG territorial border,
caused a clash and a buildup of ISF and Kurdish troops facing off. Several weeks of U.S. and
intra-Iraq mediation resulted in a tentative agreement on December 6, 2012, for both sides to pull
back their forces and for local ethnic groups to form units to replace ISF and peshmerga units
along the Baghdad-KRG frontier. The agreement was only partially implemented. In May 2013,
peshmerga forces advanced their positions in Kirkuk province, taking advantage of the ISF
drawdown there as the ISF dealt with Sunni violence elsewhere in Iraq.

The continued clashes and frontier tensions could be attributed, in part, to the end of the
“combined security mechanism” (CSM) set up by the United States when its troops were in Iraq.
The CSM began in January 2010, consisting of joint (ISF-U.S-Kurdish) patrols, maintenance of
22 checkpoints, and U.S. training of participating ISF and peshmerga forces. The mechanism was
administered through provincial level Combined Coordination Centers, and disagreements were
referred to a Senior Working Group and a High Level Ministerial Committee.28

Interview with Masoud Barzani by Hayder al-Khoie on Al-Hurra television network. April 6, 2012.
Testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
November 13, 2013.
“Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops.” Rand Corporation, 2011.

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Kirkuk Dispute
The KRG-Baghdad clashes have been spurred in part by the lack of any progress in recent years
in resolving the various territorial disputes between the Kurds and Iraq’s Arabs. The most
emotional of these is the Kurdish insistence that Tamim Province (which includes oil-rich Kirkuk)
is “Kurdish land” and must be formally affiliated to the KRG. There was to be a census and
referendum on the affiliation of the province by December 31, 2007, under Article 140 of the
Constitution, but the Kurds have agreed to repeated delays in order to avoid jeopardizing overall
progress in Iraq. Nor has the national census that is pivotal to any such referendum been
conducted; it was scheduled for October 24, 2010, but then repeatedly postponed by the broader
political crisis and differences over how to account for movements of populations into or out of
the Kurdish-controlled provinces.

On the other hand, some KRG-Baghdad disputes have moved forward. The Property Claims
Commission that is adjudicating claims from the Saddam regime’s forced resettlement of Arabs
into the KRG region is functioning. Of the 178,000 claims received, nearly 26,000 were approved
and 90,000 rejected or ruled invalid by the end of 2011, according to the State Department. Since
2003, more than 28,000 Iraqi Arabs settled in the KRG area by Saddam have relocated from
Kirkuk back to their original provinces.

KRG Oil Exports
The KRG and Baghdad are still at odds over the Kurds’ insistence that it export oil that is
discovered and extracted in the KRG region. Baghdad reportedly fears that Kurdish oil exports
can potentially enable the Kurds to set up an economically viable independent state and has called
the KRG’s separate energy development deals with international firms “illegal.” Baghdad has
supported KRG oil exports through the national oil export pipeline grid in which revenues from
the KRG exports go into central government accounts, proceeds (17% agreed proportion) go to
the KRG, and Baghdad pays the international oil companies working in the KRG.

However, KRG oil exports through the national grid have been repeatedly suspended over central
government withholding of payments to the international energy firms. In September 2012, the
KRG and Baghdad agreed that Baghdad would pay about $900 million in arrears due the
international firms. However, that pact held only until late December 2012. The national budget
adopted by the COR on March 7, 2013, allocated only $650 million to the companies exporting
KRG oil; the Kurds had sought $3.5 billion for that purpose. Because of this provision, Kurdish
members boycotted the budget vote. The 2014 Iraqi national budget is again stalled, as of early
2014, by Baghdad’s demand that the KRG export 400,000 barrels per day of oil through the
national grid – not through a separate pipeline to Turkey capable of carrying 300,000 barrels per
day of oil. KRG fields currently have the potential to export 500,000 barrels per day and it is
expected to be able to increase exports to 1 million barrels per day by 2019,29 if export routes are

Related to the disputes over KRG oil exports is a broader disagreement over foreign firm
involvement in the KRG energy sector. The October 2011 KRG signing of an energy
development deal with U.S. energy giant Exxon-Mobil represents a further dimension of the

Jane Arraf. “Iraq’s Unity Tested by Rising Tensions Over Oil-Rich Kurdish Region.” Christian Science Monitor,
May 4, 2012.

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energy row with Baghdad. The central government denounced the deal as illegal, in part because
the oil fields involved are in or very close to disputed territories. The KRG has sought to defuse
this consideration by saying that if the territory of the oil fields is subsequently judged to be part
of central government-administered territory, then the revenues would be reallocated accordingly.
The central government threatened to cancel the firm’s existing contract to develop the West
Qurna oil field near Basra, but decided instead on February 13, 2012, to prevent Exxon Mobil
from bidding for new work in Baghdad-controlled Iraq. On March 17, 2012, Baghdad claimed
that Exxon-Mobil had frozen the KRG contract, but the KRG denies the company has stopped
work in the KRG region, and Exxon began production in the KRG in late 2012.30 Further disputes
occurred over a July 2012 KRG deal with Total SA of France; in August 2012 the central
government told Total SA to either terminate its arrangement with the KRG or give up work on
the central government Halfaya field.

Turkish Dimension
The growing energy relationship between Turkey and the KRG energy sector adds tension to the
KRG-Baghdad relationship, and causes strains between Turkey and Baghdad. In March 2013, the
KRG and Turkey discussing a broad energy deal that would include Turkish investment in drilling
for oil and gas in the KRG-controlled territory, and the construction of a second oil pipeline
linking KRG-controlled fields to a pumping station on the Turkish side of the border.31 In
response to the “second pipeline” project, the Iraqi government blacklisted Turkey’s state energy
pipeline firm (TPAO) from some work in southern Iraq. The broader KRG-Turkey energy deal
reportedly also envisions a natural gas pipeline under which the KRG would export 10 billion
cubic meters of natural gas to Turkey per year, enough to meet more than 20% of Turkey’s
current consumption.32 The Obama Administration has generally sided with Baghdad on the
dispute, asserting that major international energy projects involving Iraq should be negotiated and
implemented through a unified central government in Baghdad.

KRG Elections and Intra-Kurdish Divisions
Provincial elections in the KRG-controlled provinces were not held during the nationwide
January 2009 provincial elections or during the March 7, 2010, COR vote. In April 2013, the
KRG announced that elections would be held in 2013 for provincial councils in the three KRG
provinces, for the KNA, and for the KRG presidency. However, on July 1, 2013, the KNA voted,
after substantial debate, to extend Barzani’s term two years, until August 19, 2015. The State
Department said on July 2, 2013, that it is confident that the KNA elected in September would
finalize a KRG constitution and set presidential elections possibly earlier than that term
expiration. Subsequently, the IHEC, which runs elections even in the KRG area, persuaded the
KRG it could not also hold provincial elections on the same day as the KNA elections. The KNA
elections were confirmed for September 21, 2013, and the KRG provincial elections were
scheduled for November 21, 2013. On October 8, 2013, the IHEC announced that the provincial
elections would be held concurrent with the Iraq-wide parliamentary elections on April 30, 2014,
as discussed above.

Iraq Oil Report. Exxon to Start Drilling in Disputed Kurdish Blocks. October 18, 2012.
International Crisis Group. “Iraq and the Kurds: The High-Stakes Hydrocarbons Gambit.” April 19, 2012.
Ben Van Heuvelen. “Energy Drives an Unlikely Partnership: Turkey and Iraqi Kurds.” Washington Post, November
12, 2013.

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September 21, 2013, KNA Elections. The KNA elections went forward on September 21, 2013 as
planned, and further complicated the political landscape in the KRG. About 1,130 candidates
registered to run for the 111 available seats, 11 of which are reserved for minority communities
that live in the north, such as Yazidis, Shabaks, Assyrians, and others. The 2013 KNA elections
continued a trend begun in the previous KNA elections of March 2010 in which a breakaway
faction of President Talabani’s PUK, called “Change” (“Gorran”), emerged as a major player.
Headed by Neshirvan Mustafa, Gorran won an unexpectedly high 25 KNA seats in March 2010
and won 24 seats in the September 21, 2013, KNA election. The 2013 result was particularly
significant because in the 2013 election, the KDP and the PUK ran separately, not combined as
the Kurdistan Alliance. As a consequence of the vote, Gorran won 24 seats—coming in second to
the KDP’s 38 (up from 30 in 2010). The PUK was humbled by coming in third with only 18
seats, down from 29 in the 2010 election. The results likely mean that Gorran will hold one of the
leading positions in the new KRG government, most likely KNA speaker.

Many experts on the Kurdish region attribute the PUK’s showing in the 2013 KNA elections to
the infirmity of Iraq’s President and PUK leader Jalal Talabani and the attendant turmoil in the
PUK leadership. Talabani remains in Germany to recuperate from his stroke, but PUK officials
say he is improving and might return at the beginning of 2014. Barham Salih, mentioned above,
is said to be pressing to replace Talabani as president, in part because the Kurds do not want
someone of another ethnicity to become president. Another PUK stalwart, Kosrat Rasoul, who
serves as KRG Vice President, is said to be seeking support to succeed Talabani as PUK leader.
Talabani’s son, Qubad, who headed the KRG representative office in Washington, DC, until
returning to the KRG in July 2012, has become more involved in Kurdish and PUK politics as his
father’s health fades. Talabani’s wife, Hero Ibrahim Ahmad Talabani, is also a major figure in
PUK politics and is said to be an opponent of Kosrat Rasoul.

The Sadr Faction’s Continuing Ambition and Agitation
Within the broader Shiite community, the faction of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr sees itself as
the main representative for Iraq’s Shiites, particularly those who are on the lower economic
echelons. The large Sadrist constituency has caused an inherent rivalry with Maliki and other
Shiite leaders in Iraq. Sadr was part of an anti-Maliki Shiite coalition for the March 2010
elections, then supported Maliki for a second term, and later joined the unsuccessful effort to vote
no-confidence against Maliki, only to then abandon that effort. Sadr has supported some Sunni
protests against Maliki on the grounds that the Sunnis are demonstrating for democracy and Sadr
says he opposes Maliki serving a third term subsequent to the April 30, 2014 elections.

Sadr’s shifts against Maliki represent a continuation of a high level of activity he has exhibited
since he returned to Iraq, from his studies in Iran, in January 2011. After his return, he gave
numerous speeches that, among other themes, insisted on full implementation of a planned U.S.
withdrawal by the end of 2011. Sadr’s position on the U.S. withdrawal appeared so firm that, in
an April 9, 2011, statement, he threatened to reactivate his Mahdi Army militia if U.S. forces
remained in Iraq beyond the December 31, 2011, deadline. In 2009, the Mahdi Army announced
it would integrate into the political process as a charity and employment network called
Mumahidoon, or “those who pave the way.” Sadr’s followers conducted a large march in
Baghdad on May 26, 2011, demanding a full U.S. military exit. The threats were pivotal to the
Iraqi decision not to retain U.S. troops in Iraq beyond 2011.

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Sadrist Offshoots and Other Shiite Militias
Although Sadr formed what was the largest Shiite militia in post-Saddam Iraq, his efforts
unleashed separate Shiite militant forces. They operate under names including Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq
(AAH, League of the Righteous), Khata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Battalions), and Promised Day
Brigade. In June 2009, Khata’ib Hezbollah was named by the United States as a Foreign Terrorist
Organization (FTO). On November 8, 2012, the Treasury Department designated several Khata’ib
Hezbollah operatives, and their Iranian Revolutionary Guard—Qods Force mentors as terrorism
supporting entities under Executive Order 13224.

The Shiite militias were part of an effort by Iran to ensure that the United States completely
withdrew from Iraq. U.S. officials accused Shiite militias of causing an elevated level of U.S.
troop deaths in June 2011 (14 killed, the highest in any month in over one year). During 2011,
U.S. officials accused Iran of arming these militias with upgraded rocket-propelled munitions,
such as Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs). U.S. officials reportedly requested that
the Iraqi government prevail on Iran to stop aiding the militias, actions that temporarily quieted
the Shiite attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. Until the U.S. withdrawal in December 2011, some
rocket attacks continued against the U.S. consulate in Basra, which has nearly 1,000 U.S.
personnel (including contractors).

The U.S. exit in 2011 removed other militias’ justification for armed activity and they too moved
into the political process. AAH’s leaders returned from Iran and opened political offices, trying to
recruit loyalists, and setting up social service programs. The group, reportedly supported by Iran,
did not compete in the April 20, 2013, provincial elections but does plan to run candidates in the
2014 national elections.33 AAH’s leader, Qais al-Khazali, took refuge in Iran in 2010 after three
years in U.S. custody for his alleged role in a 2005 raid that killed five American soldiers.

The State Department report on terrorism for 2012, referenced above, said that Shiite militias
have been adhering to a ceasefire that went into effect upon the U.S. withdrawal in December
2011. Experts had maintained that the militias were not becoming embroiled in sectarian conflict
with Iraq’s Sunnis despite the escalation of AQ-I/ISIL and other attacks on Iraqi Shiites.
However, as of the summer of 2013, this restraint apparently has weakened and some militias are
conducting retaliatory attacks on Sunnis. In doing so, some experts see the militias as receiving
the tacit cooperation of the Shiite-dominated ISF, particularly in Baghdad.34 Iraqi Shiite
militiamen are reportedly increasingly involved in Syria fighting and protecting Shiite shrines in
support of the government of Bashar Al Assad.35

Governance, Economic Resources, and Human
Rights Issues
The continuing political crises discussed above have dashed most hopes that Iraq will become a
fully functioning democracy with well-established institutions and rule of law. On the other hand,
some experts assert that most Iraqis remain committed to the success of the existing governing

Liz Sly. “Iran-Tied Group Is On Rise in Iraq.” Washington Post, February 19, 2013.
Michael Knights. “Iraq’s Never-Ending Security Crisis.” BBC News, October 3, 2013.
Abigail Hauslohner. “Iraqi Shiites Take Up the Cudgels for Syrian Government.” Washington Post, May 27, 2013.

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structure and that all the outstanding disputes are soluble. Some believe that slow action on laws
governing investment, taxation, and property ownership account for the slow pace of building a
modern, dynamic economy. Others say the success of Iraq’s energy sector is overriding these
adverse factors.

As far as one major indicator of effective governance, the State Department human rights report
for 2012, released April 19, 2013, contains substantial detail on the continuing lack of progress in
curbing governmental corruption. The State Department report assesses that political interference
and other factors such as tribal and family relationships regularly thwart the efforts of anti-
corruption institutions, such as the Commission on Integrity (COI). A Joint Anti-Corruption
Council, which reports to the cabinet, is tasked with implementing the government’s 2010-2014
Anti-Corruption Strategy. Another body is the Supreme Board of Audits, which monitors the use
of government funds. The COR has its own Integrity Committee that oversees the executive
branch and the governmental anti-corruption bodies. The KRG has its own separate anti-
corruption institutions, including an Office of Governance and Integrity in the KRG council of
ministers. Even though anti-corruption efforts have often been derailed, the State Department
report stated that, during the first 10 months of 2012, over 1,100 government officials had been
found guilty of misappropriation of public funds.

Energy Sector and Economic Development
Adopting national oil laws has been considered key to developing and establishing rule of law
and transparency in a key sector. Substantial progress appeared near in August 2011 when both
the COR and the cabinet drafted the oil laws long in the works to rationalize the energy sector and
clarify the rules for foreign investors. However, there were differences in their individual
versions: the version drafted by the Oil and Natural Resources Committee was presented to the
full COR on August 17, 2011. The cabinet adopted its separate version on August 28, 2011—a
version that the KRG opposed as favoring too much “centralization” (i.e., Baghdad control) in the
energy sector. The September 2012 KRG-Baghdad agreement on KRG oil exports included a
provision to set up a six-member committee to review the different versions of the oil laws under
consideration and decide which version to submit to the COR for formal consideration. No
definitive movement on this issue has been announced since, although during the early 2014
ISIL-led insurrection, U.S. officials reportedly pressed Maliki and the Kurds to try to resolve oil
law differences as a component of a political solution in Iraq.

The continuing deadlock on oil laws has not prevented growth in the crucial energy sector, which
provides 90% of Iraq’s budget. Iraq possesses a proven 143 billion barrels of oil. After long
remaining below the levels achieved prior to the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s oil exports
recovered to Saddam-era levels of about 2.1 million barrels per day by March 2012. Production
reached the milestone 3 million barrels per day mark in February 2012, which Iraqi leaders
trumpeted as a key milestone in Iraq’s recovery, and expanded further to about 3.3 million barrels
per day by September 2012. It has remained at about that level since, but Iraqi officials say they
plan to expand production to 4.7 mbd in 2015 and to 9 mbd by 2020 (including KRG production).
The growth in Iraq’s exports has contributed to keeping the global oil market well supplied as the
oil customers of neighboring Iran have cut back Iranian oil purchases in cooperation with U.S.
sanctions on Iran.

What is helping the Iraqi production is the involvement of foreign firms, including BP, Exxon-
Mobil, Occidental, and Chinese firms. China now buys about half of Iraq’s oil exports. Chinese
firms such as China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) are major investors in several Iraqi fields.

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U.S. firms assisted Iraq’s export capacity by developing single-point mooring oil loading
terminals to compensate for deterioration in Iraq’s existing oil export infrastructure in Basra and
Umm Qasr. Press reports in November 2013 say that Royal Dutch Shell and the Iraqi government
are close to an $11 billion deal for the firm to build a petrochemical prodcution facilitiy in
southern Iraq. This would follow a $17 billion 2012 deal between the company and Iraq to
produce natural gas that were previously flared in Iraq’s southern oil fields.

Oil Resources Fuels Growth
The growth of oil exports appears to be fueling a rapid expansion of the economy. Iraq’s GDP
grew by about 12% in 2012, according to the World Bank. Iraqi officials estimated in February
2013 that growth would be about 9% for 2013. Press reports in 2012 have noted the development
of several upscale malls and other consequences of positive economic progress. The more stable
areas of Iraq, such as the Shiite south, are said to be experiencing an economic boom as they
accommodate increasing numbers of Shiite pilgrims to Najaf and Karbala. Iraqi officials said in
mid-February 2013 that the country now has about $105 billion in foreign exchange reserves, and
that GDP will reach $150 billion by the end of 2013. On September 18, 2013, Iraq launched a
$357 billion five-year National Development Plan, with projects across many different sectors. As
noted above, Iraq’s cabinet and COR are debating a $150 billion budget for 2014, but final
approval is held up over differences with the Kurds on KRG oil exports.

General Human Rights Issues
The State Department human rights report for 2012, released April 19, 2013, largely repeated the
previous years’ criticisms of Iraq’s human rights record and the attribution of deficiencies in
human rights practices to the overall security situation and sectarian and factional divisions.36 The
State Department report cited a wide range of human rights problems committed by Iraqi
government security and law enforcement personnel—as well as by KRG security institutions37—
including some unlawful killings; torture and other cruel punishments; poor conditions in prison
facilities; denial of fair public trials; arbitrary arrest; arbitrary interference with privacy and
home; limits on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association due to sectarianism and extremist
threats; lack of protection of stateless persons; wide scale governmental corruption; human
trafficking; and limited exercise of labor rights. Many of these same abuses and deficiencies are
alleged in reports by outside groups such as Human Rights Watch.

On the other hand, U.S. officials assert that civil society organizations are expanding in size and
authority to perform formal and informal oversight of human rights in Iraq. During a visit to Iraq
on June 28-30, 2013, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns awarded the 2012 “Human Rights
Defender Award” to an Iraqi human rights organization, the Hammurabi Human Rights

One notable example in the State Department report for 2012 cites the death in April 2012 in a KRG intelligence
prison of the mayor of the KRG city of Sulaymaniyah; the KRG concluded he committed suicide but the family of the
mayor alleged he had been tortured to death.

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Use of Coercive Force
Iraq’s government has come under criticism when it has used force against peaceful
demonstrators. Such criticism was leveled when 20 Iraqis were killed by security forces in the
large February 25, 2011, “Day of Rage” demonstrations called by Iraqi activists. Maliki has also
been criticized for the April 2013 Hawijah assault, discussed above, and for occasional
subsequent use of force against demonstrators. On the other hand, visiting Foreign Minister
Hoshyar Zebari said in August 2013 that the ISF has used substantial restraint, and that incidents
such as the Hawijah assault have been few. Other experts say that the ISF’s actions in the Hawijah
and the earlier Day of Rage events have been investigated by the COR and within the
government, suggesting efforts to establish accountability and instill restraint.

Trafficking in Persons
The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report for 2013, released on June 19, 2013, places
Iraq in “Tier 2.” That was an upgrade from the Tier 2 Watch List rating for Iraq for four previous
years. The upgrade was a product of the U.S. assessment that Iraq is making “significant efforts”
to comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Previously, Iraq
received a waiver from automatic downgrading to Tier 3 (which happens if a country is
“watchlisted” for three straight years) because it had developed a plan to make significant efforts
to meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and was devoting significant
resources to that plan. On April 30, 2012, the COR enacted a law to facilitate elimination of
trafficking in persons, both sexual and labor-related.

Media and Free Expression
While State Department and other reports attribute most of Iraq’s human rights difficulties to the
security situation and factional infighting, apparent curbs on free expression appear independent
of such factors. One issue that troubles human rights activists is a law, passed by the COR in
August 2011, called the “Journalist Rights Law.” The law purports to protect journalists but left
many of the provisions of Saddam-era libel and defamation laws in place. For example, the new
law leaves in place imprisonment for publicly insulting the government. The State Department
human rights reports have noted continuing instances of harassment and intimidation of
journalists who write about corruption and the lack of government services. Much of the private
media that operate is controlled by individual factions or powerful personalities. There are no
overt government restrictions on access to the Internet.

In March 2012, some observers reported a setback to free expression, although instigated by
militias or non-governmental groups, not the government. There were reports of 14 youths having
been stoned to death by militiamen for wearing Western-style clothes and haircuts collectively
known as “Emo” style. In late June 2012, the government ordered the closing of 44 new
organizations that it said were operating without a license. Included in the closure list were the
BBC, Voice of America, and the U.S.-funded Radio Sawa. In early 2013, the COR adopted an
“Information Crimes Law” to regulate the use of information networks, computers, and other
electronic devices and systems. Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups criticized

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that law as “violat[ing] international standards protecting due process, freedom of speech, and
freedom of association,”38 and the COR revoked it February 2013.

Labor Rights
A 1987 (Saddam era) labor code remains in effect, restricting many labor rights, particularly in
the public sector. Although the 2005 constitution provides for the right to strike and form unions,
the labor code virtually rules out independent union activity. Unions have no legal power to
negotiate with employers or protect workers’ rights through collective bargaining.

Religious Freedom/Situation of Religious Minorities
The Iraqi constitution provides for religious freedom and the government generally respected
religious freedom, according to the State Department’s report on International Religious Freedom
for 2012, released May 20, 2013.39 However, reflecting the conservative Islamic attitudes of
many Iraqis, Shiite and Sunni clerics seek to enforce aspects of Islamic law and customs,
sometimes coming into conflict with Iraq’s generally secular traditions as well as constitutional
protections. On September 13, 2012, hundreds—presumably Shiites—took to the streets in
predominantly Shiite Sadr City to protest the “Innocence of Muslims” video that was produced in
the United States and set off protests throughout the Middle East in September 2012.

Concerns about religious freedom in Iraq tends to center on government treatment of religious
minorities—an issue discussed extensively in the State Department International Religious
Freedom report. A major concern is the safety and security of Iraq’s Christian and other religious
minority populations which are concentrated in northern Iraq as well as in Baghdad. These other
groups include most notably the Yazidis, which number about 500,000-700,000; the Shabaks,
which number about 200,000-500,000; the Sabeans, who number about 4,000; the Baha’i’s that
number about 2,000; and the Kakai’s of Kirkuk, which number about 24,000. Since the 2003 U.S.
intervention, more than half of the 1 million-1.5 million Christian population that was there
during Saddam’s time have left. Recent estimates indicate that the Christian population of Iraq is
between 400,000 and 850,000.

Violent attacks on members of the Christian community have tended to occur in waves. About
10,000 Christians in northern Iraq, fearing bombings and intimidation, fled the areas near Kirkuk
during October-December 2009. On October 31, 2010, a major attack on Christians occurred
when a church in Baghdad (Sayidat al-Najat Church) was besieged by militants and as many as
60 worshippers were killed. Partly as a result, Christian celebrations of Christmas 2010 were said
to be subdued—following three years in which Christians had felt confident enough to celebrate
that holiday openly. Several other attacks appearing to target Iraqi Christians have taken place
since. Even at the height of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, U.S. forces did not specifically
protect Christian sites at all times, partly because Christian leaders do not want to appear closely
allied with the United States. The State Department religious freedom report for 2011 said that
during 2011, U.S. Embassy Baghdad designated a “special coordinator” to oversee U.S. funding,
program implementation, and advocacy to address minority concerns.

Human Rights Watch. “Iraq’s Information Crimes Law: Badly Written Provisions and Draconian Punishments
Violate due Process and Free Speech.” July 12, 2012.

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Some Iraqi Assyrian Christians in the north blame the various attacks on them on Al Qaeda in
Iraq, which is still somewhat strong in Nineveh Province and which associates Christians with the
United States. Some human rights groups allege that it is the Kurds who are committing abuses
against Christians and other minorities in the Nineveh Plains, close to the KRG-controlled region.
Kurdish leaders deny the allegations. To address this threat, some Iraqi Assyrian Christian groups
have been advocating a “Nineveh Plains Province Solution,” in which the Nineveh Plains would
be turned into a self-administering region, possibly its own province. Supporters of the idea claim
such a zone would pose no threat to the integrity of Iraq, but others say the plan’s inclusion of a
separate Christian security force could set the scene for violence and confrontation. The Iraqi
government appears to have adopted a form of the plan in its January 2014 announcement that the
cabinet had decided to convert the Nineveh Plains into a new province.

Funding Issues. The FY2008 consolidated appropriation earmarked $10 million in ESF from
previous appropriations to assist the Nineveh Plain Christians. A supplemental appropriation for
2008 and 2009 (P.L. 110-252) earmarked another $10 million for this purpose. The Consolidated
Appropriations Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-117) made a similar provision for FY2010, although
focused on Middle East minorities generally and without a specific dollar figure mandated for
Iraqi Christians. The State Department International Religious Freedom report for 2012 said that
the United States has funded more than $73 million for projects to support minority communities
in Iraq.

Women’s Rights
Iraq has a tradition of secularism and liberalism, and women’s rights issues have not been as large
a concern for international observers and rights groups as they have in Afghanistan or the Persian
Gulf states, for example. Women serve at many levels of government, as discussed above, and are
well integrated into the work force in all types of jobs and professions. By tradition, many Iraqi
women wear traditional coverings but many adopt Western dress. On October 6, 2011, the COR
passed legislation to lift Iraq’s reservation to Article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The death penalty is legal in Iraq. In June 2012, Amnesty International condemned the “alarming”
increase in executions, which had by then put 70 persons to death. U.N. High Commissioner for
Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed shock in 2012 over the high number of executions in
Iraq. On August 28, 2012, the government executed 21 people, including 3 women, convicted of
terrorism-related charges.

Mass Graves
As is noted in the State Department report on human rights for 2012, the Iraqi government
continues to uncover mass graves of Iraqi victims of the Saddam regime. This effort is under the
authority of the Human Rights Ministry. The largest to date was a mass grave in Mahawil, near
Hilla, that contained 3,000 bodies; the grave was discovered in 2003, shortly after the fall of the
regime. In July 2012, a mass grave was discovered near Najaf, containing the bodies of about 500
Iraqi Shiites killed during the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein. Excavations of mass graves
in Wasit and Dhi Qar provinces began in April and May 2013, respectively.

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Regional Dimension
Iraq’s neighbors, as well as the United States, have significant interest in Iraq’s stability and its
regional alignments. Iraq’s post-Saddam Shiite leadership has affinity for Iran, which supported
the Iraqi Shiites in years of struggle against Saddam. Yet, Iraq also seeks to reintegrate into the
Arab fold—of which Iran is not a part—after more than 20 years of ostracism following Iraq’s
invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. That motive mitigates, to some extent, Iranian influence in
Iraq because the Arab world is primarily composed of Sunni Muslims.

Iraq’s reintegration into the Arab fold took a large step forward with the holding of an Arab
League summit in Baghdad during March 27-29, 2012. Iraq hailed the gathering as a success
primarily because of the absence of major security incidents during the gathering. However, only
nine heads of state out of the 22 Arab League members attended, of which only one was a Persian
Gulf leader (Amir Sabah al-Ahmad Al Sabah of Kuwait). On May 23-24, 2012, Iraq hosted
nuclear talks between Iran and six negotiating powers. Iraq participated in the regional Eager
Lion military exercise in Jordan in mid-2013, and in an international mine countermeasures
exercise off Bahrain. In July 2013, the United States convened a strategic dialogue that includes
Iraq, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt joined the subsequent session of the
dialogue the week of November 18, 2013.

Iraq is also sufficiently confident to begin offering assistance to other emerging Arab
democracies. Utilizing its base of expertise in chemical weaponry during the Saddam Hussein
regime, Iraq has provided some technical assistance to the post-Qadhafi authorities in Libya to
help them clean up chemical weapons stockpiles built up by the Qadhafi regime. It donated
$100,000 and provided advisers to support elections in Tunisia after its 2011 revolution.40

The United States has sought to limit Iran’s influence over Iraq, even though many assert that it
was U.S. policy that indirectly brought to power Iraqi Shiites long linked to Iran. Some argue that
the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq represented a success for Iranian strategy, and that
evidence of Iranian influence is Iraq’s refusal to join U.S. and allied efforts to achieve a transition
from the rule of President Bashar Al Assad in Syria. There are no indications that U.S. efforts to
limit Iran’s influence in Iraq have diminished because of the accession of the relatively moderate
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in August 2013.

Prime Minister Maliki has tried to calm fears that Iran exercises undue influence over Iraq,
stressing that Iraqi nationalism resists Iranian influence. On Syria, Iraqi leaders stress that Iraq is
neutral in the Syrian conflict and has not adopted Iran’s position of openly supporting the Assad
regime. Experts also note lingering distrust of Iran from the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, in which an
estimated 300,000 Iraqi military personnel (Shiite and Sunni) died. And Iraq’s Shiite clerics also
resist Iranian interference and take pride in Najaf as a more prominent center of Shiite theology
and history than is the Iranian holy city of Qom.

Tim Arango. “Iraq Election Official’s Arrest Casts Doubt on Prospects for Fair Voting.” New York Times, April 17,

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In a December 5, 2011, op-ed in the Washington Post, entitled “Building a Stable Iraq,” Maliki

Iraq is a sovereign country. Our foreign policy is rooted in the fact that we do not interfere in
the affairs of other countries; accordingly, we oppose foreign interference in Iraqi affairs.

On the other hand, Maliki’s frequent visits to Tehran have increased U.S. concerns about his
alignment with Iran. His most recent visit was on December 4, 2013, about ten days after Iran and
the international community agreed to an interim deal on Iran’s nuclear program. Most experts
assessed the visit as an effort by Maliki to judge the potential for Iran’s rebuilding of its relations
with the international community. However, some observers speculated the visit might have been
an effort by Maliki to arrange Tehran’s support for a third term as Prime Minister.

There are indications the Shiite-led government of Iraq has sought to shield pro-Iranian militants
who committed past acts of violence against U.S. forces. In May 2012, Iraqi courts acquitted and
Iraq released from prison a purported Hezbollah commander, Ali Musa Daqduq, although he
subsequently remained under house arrest. He had been in U.S. custody for alleged activities
against U.S. forces but, under the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement (discussed below) he was
transferred to Iraqi custody in December 2011. In July 2012, U.S. officials asked Iraqi leaders to
review the Daqduq case or extradite him to the United States, but Iraq released him in November
2012 and he returned to Lebanon, despite U.S. efforts to persuade Iraq to keep him there.

Still others see Iranian influence as less political than economic, raising questions about whether
Iran is using Iraq to try to avoid the effects of international sanctions. Some reports say Iraq is
enabling Iran’s efforts by allowing it to interact with Iraq’s energy sector and its banking system.
In July 2012, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on the Elaf Islamic Bank of Iraq for
allegedly conducting financial transactions with the Iranian banking system that violated the
Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA, P.L. 111-
195). Those sanctions were lifted in May 2013 when Elaf reduced its involvement in Iran’s
financial sector. Iraq also is at least indirectly assisting U.S. policy toward Iran by supplying oil
customers who, in cooperation with U.S. sanctions against Iran, are cutting back buys of oil from
Iran. Iran’s exports to Iraq reached about $10 billion from March 2012 to March 2013, a large
increase from the $7 billion in exports in the prior one year.

The Iraqi government treatment of the population of Camp Ashraf and Camp Hurriya, camps in
which over 3,500 Iranian oppositionists (People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, PMOI) have
resided, is another indicator of the government’s close ties to Iran. The residents of the camps
accuse the Iraqi government of recent attacks on residents. This issue is discussed in substantial
detail in CRS Report RL32048, Iran: U.S. Concerns and Policy Responses, by Kenneth Katzman.

Iran has periodically acted against other Iranian opposition groups based in Iraq. The Free Life
Party (PJAK) consists of Iranian Kurds, and it is allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party that
opposes the government of Turkey. Iran has shelled purported camps of the group on several
occasions. Iran is also reportedly attempting to pressure the bases and offices in Iraq of such
Iranian Kurdish parties as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I) and Komaleh.

One of the major disagreements between the United States and Iraq is on the issue of Syria. U.S.
policy is to achieve the ouster of President Bashar Al Assad. Maliki’s government, as noted

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above, stresses official “neutrality,” but it is said to perceive that a post-Assad Syria would be
dominated by Sunni Arabs who will align with other Sunni powers. Maliki and his close
associates reportedly see the armed rebellion in Syria as aggravating the political unrest in Iraq by
emboldening Iraqi Sunnis to escalate armed activities against the Maliki government.

Iraq has refrained from sharp criticism of Assad for using military force against protests and Iraq
abstained on an Arab League vote in November 2011 to suspend Syria’s membership. (Yemen
and Lebanon were the only two “no” votes.) Perhaps to ensure Arab participation at the March
2012 Arab League summit in Baghdad, Iraq voted for a January 22, 2012, Arab League plan for a
transition of power in Syria. As an indication of Iraq’s policy of simultaneously engaging with the
United States on the Syria issue, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has attended U.S.-led meetings
of countries that are seeking Assad’s ouster. At the conclusion of Maliki’s meeting with President
Obama on November 1, 2013, Iraq expressed support for the “Geneva II” meeting scheduled for
January 22, 2014 to try to arrange a political transition in Syria.

An issue that has divided Iraq and the United States since August 2012 has been Iraq’s reported
permission for Iranian arms supplies to overfly Iraq en route to Syria.41 Iraq has searched a few of
these flights, particularly after specific high-level U.S. requests to do so, but has routinely
allowed the aircraft to proceed after finding no arms aboard, sometimes because the Iranian
aircraft had already dropped off their cargo in Syria. Instituting regular inspections of these flights
was a major focus of the March 24, 2013, visit of Secretary of State Kerry to Baghdad, but the
Iraqi leadership—perhaps in an effort to speed up U.S. arms deliveries—has argued that Iraq
lacks the air defense and aircraft to interdict the Iranian flights. The March 2013 Secretary Kerry
visit reportedly resulted in an agreement for the United States to provide Iraq with information on
the likely contents of the Iranian flights in an effort to prompt Iraqi reconsideration of its position.
U.S. officials said in late 2013 that the overflights appear to be diminishing in frequency.

As further indication of Maliki’s support for Assad, on February 20, 2013, the Iraqi cabinet
approved construction on a natural gas pipeline that will traverse Iraq and deliver Iranian gas to
Syria. The project is potentially sanctionable under the Iran Sanctions Act that provides for U.S.
penalties on projects that help Iran develop its energy sector, including natural gas.

Aside from official Iraqi policy, the unrest in Syria has generated a scramble among Iraqi factions
to affect the outcome there. As noted above, ISIL operates on both sides of the border and each
branch assists the other.42 On March 4, 2013, suspected ISIL members on the Iraq side of the
border killed 48 Syrian military personnel, and their Iraqi military escorts; the Syrians had fled a
battle on the border into Iraq and were ambushed while being transported south within Iraq
pending repatriation to Syria. On December 11, 2012, the United States designated a Syrian
jihadist rebel group, the Al Nusrah Front, as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), asserting
that it is an alias of AQ-I/ISIL. At the same time, as noted above, Iraqi Shiite militiamen from
groups discussed above—and who generally operate far from the border with Syria—have gone
to Syria to fight on behalf of the Assad regime.

The KRG appears to be assisting the Syrian Kurds, who have mostly joined the revolt against
Assad. KRG President Barzani has hosted several meetings of Syrian Kurds to promote unity and
a common strategy among them, and the KRG reportedly has been training Syrian Kurdish militia

Kristina Wong, “Iraq Resists U.S. Prod, Lets Iran Fly Arms to Syria.” Washington Times, March 16, 2012.
Sahar Issa. “Iraq Violence Dips Amid Rise in Syria.” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 21, 2012.

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forces to prepare them to secure an autonomous Kurdish area if and when Assad falls. On
November 6, 2012, Barzani warned the two major Syrian Kurdish factions—the Democratic
Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdish National Council—to avoid discord after the two had been
clashing inside Syria. In August 2013, in response to fighting between the Syrian Kurds and
Syrian Islamist rebel factions, Barzani threatened to deploy KRG peshmerga to help the Syrian
Kurds. The threat was later tempered to the sending of KRG envoys to Syria to investigate the
fighting, and no Iraqi pershmerga have been sent to Syria. Still, many experts assert that the threat
could have been the trigger for a series of bombings in normally safe Irbil on September 29,
2013. Six Kurdish security forces who guarded the attacked official buildings were killed.

Turkey’s policy toward Iraq has historically focused almost exclusively on the Iraqi Kurdish
insistence on autonomy and possible push for independence—sentiments that Turkey apparently
fears could embolden Kurdish oppositionists in Turkey. The anti-Turkey Kurdistan Workers’
Party (PKK) has long maintained camps inside Iraq, along the border with Turkey. Turkey
continues to conduct periodic bombardments and other military operations against the PKK
encampments in Iraq. In October 2011, Turkey sent ground troops into northern Iraq to attack
PKK bases following the killing of 24 Turkish soldiers by the PKK. However, suggesting that it
has built a pragmatic relationship with the KRG, Turkey has emerged as the largest outside
investor in northern Iraq and is building an increasingly close political relationship with the KRG
as well, as discussed above.

As Turkey’s relations with the KRG have deepened, relations between Turkey and the Iraqi
government have worsened, although there are signs of Baghdad-Ankara reconciliation as of late
2013. Turkey’s provision of refuge for Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi has been a source of
tension; Maliki unsuccessfully sought his extradition for trial. On August 2, 2012, Turkish
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu visited the disputed city of Kirkuk, prompting a rebuke from
Iraq’s Foreign Ministry that the visit constituted inappropriate interference in Iraqi affairs. And,
tensions have been aggravated by their differing positions on Syria: Turkey is a prime backer of
the mostly Sunni rebels there whereas Baghdad is leaning toward the pro-Assad position.

In an effort to improve relations, Davotoglu visited Baghdad in mid-November 2013 and, aside
from meeting Maliki and other Iraqi leaders, visited Najaf and Karbala—Iraqi cities holy to
Shiites. That visit appeared intended to signal Turkish evenhandedness with regard to sectarian
disputes in Iraq. During that visit, Maliki reportedly proposed the two develop a “north-south”
energy corridor through which Iraqi energy exports could flow to Europe via Turkey. Davotoglu
apparently did not commit or object to that proposal. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett
McGurk testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 13, 2013, that the
United States supports that concept as well as another export pipeline that would carry Iraqi oil to
Jordan’s Red Sea outlet at Aqaba.

Gulf States
Iraq has reduced tensions with several of the Sunni-led Persian Gulf states who have not fully
accommodated themselves to the fact that Iraq is now dominated by Shiite factions. All of the
Gulf states were represented at the March 27-29, 2012, Arab League summit in Baghdad summit
but Amir Sabah of Kuwait was the only Gulf head of state to attend. Qatar sent a very low-level

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delegation, which it said openly was meant as a protest against the Iraqi government’s treatment
of Sunni Arab factions.

Saudi Arabia had been widely criticized by Iraqi leaders because it has not opened an embassy in
Baghdad, a move Saudi Arabia pledged in 2008 and which the United States has long urged. This
issue was mitigated on February 20, 2012, when Saudi Arabia announced that it had named its
ambassador to Jordan, Fahd al-Zaid, to serve as a non-resident ambassador to Iraq concurrently.
However, it did not announce the opening of an embassy in Baghdad. The Saudi move came after
a visit by Iraqi national security officials to Saudi Arabia to discuss greater cooperation on
counterterrorism and the fate of about 400 Arab prisoners in Iraqi jails. The other Gulf countries
have opened embassies and all except the UAE have appointed full ambassadors to Iraq.

The government of Bahrain, which is mostly Sunni, also fears that Iraq might work to empower
Shiite oppositionists who have demonstrated for a constitutional monarchy during 2011.
Ayatollah Sistani is revered by many Bahraini Shiites, and Iraqi Shiites have demonstrated in
solidarity with the Bahraini opposition, but there is no evidence that Iraq has had any direct role
in the Bahrain unrest.

The relationship with Kuwait has always been considered difficult to resolve because of the
legacy of the 1990 Iraqi invasion. However, greater acceptance of the Iraqi government was
demonstrated by the visit of Kuwait’s then prime minister to Iraq on January 12, 2011. Maliki
subsequently visited Kuwait on February 16, 2011, and, as noted above, the Amir of Kuwait
attended the Arab League summit in Baghdad in March 2012. The Prime Minister of Kuwait
visited in mid-June 2013, which led to an agreement to remove the outstanding issues of Kuwaiti
persons and property missing from the Iraqi invasion from U.N. Security Council (Chapter VII)
supervision to oversight by UNAMI under Chapter VI of the U.N. Charter. This transition was
implemented by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2107 of June 27, 2013. The two countries have
also resolved the outstanding issues of maintenance of border demarcation. In late October 2013,
the Iraqi cabinet voted to allow Kuwait to open consulates in Basra and Irbil.

The resolution of these issues follows the U.N. Security Council passage on December 15, 2010,
of Resolutions 1956, 1957, and 1958. These resolutions had the net effect of lifting most Saddam-
era sanctions on Iraq, although the U.N.-run reparations payments process remains intact (and
deducts 5% from Iraq’s total oil revenues). As of the end of December 2012, a U.N.
Compensation Commission set up under Security Council Resolution 687 has paid $38.8 billion
to claimants from the 1990-1991 Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, with an outstanding balance of
$13.6 billion to be paid by April 2015. These issues are discussed in detail in CRS Report
RS21513, Kuwait: Security, Reform, and U.S. Policy, by Kenneth Katzman.

U.S. Military Withdrawal and Post-2011 Policy
A complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011 was a stipulation of the
November 2008 U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement (SA), which took effect on January 1, 2009.
Following the SA’s entry into force, President Obama, on February 27, 2009, outlined a U.S.
troop drawdown plan that provided for a drawdown of U.S. combat brigades by the end of August
2010, with a residual force of 50,000 primarily for training the Iraq Security Forces, to remain

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until the end of 2011. An interim benchmark in the SA was the June 30, 2009, withdrawal of U.S.
combat troops from Iraq’s cities. These withdrawal deadlines were adhered to.

Question of Whether U.S. Forces Would Remain Beyond 2011
During 2011, with the deadline for a complete U.S. withdrawal approaching, fears of expanded
Iranian influence, and perceived deficiencies in Iraq’s nearly 800,000 member security forces
caused U.S. officials to seek to revise the SA to keep some U.S. troops in Iraq after 2011. Some
U.S. experts feared the rifts among major ethnic and sectarian communities were still wide
enough that Iraq could still become a “failed state” unless some U.S. troops remained. U.S.
officials emphasized that the ongoing ISF weaknesses centered on lack of ability to defend Iraq’s
airspace and borders. Iraqi comments that it would be unable to execute full external defense until
2020-2024, reinforced those who asserted that a U.S. force presence was still needed.43
Renegotiating the SA to allow for a continued U.S. troop presence required discussions with the
Iraqi government and a ratification vote of the Iraqi COR.

Several high-level U.S. visits and statements urged the Iraqis to consider extending the U.S. troop
presence. Maliki told visiting Speaker of the House John Boehner during an April 16, 2011, visit
to Baghdad that Iraq would welcome U.S. training and arms after that time.44 Subsequent to
Boehner’s visit, Maliki, anticipating that a vote of the COR would be needed for any extension,
stated that a request for U.S. troops might be made if there were a “consensus” among political
blocs (which he later defined as at least 70% concurrence).45 This appeared to be an effort to
isolate the Sadr faction, the most vocal opponent of a continuing U.S. presence. On August 3,
2011, major factions gave Maliki their backing to negotiate an SA extension. In September 2011,
a figure of about 15,000 remaining U.S. troops, reflecting recommendations of the U.S. military,
was being widely discussed.46 The New York Times reported on September 7, 2011, that the
Administration was considering proposing to Iraq to retain only about 3,000-4,000 forces, mostly
in a training role.47 Many experts criticized that figure as too low to carry out intended missions.

Decision on Full Withdrawal
The difficulty in the negotiations—partly a function of Sadrist opposition to a post-2011 U.S.
presence—clarified on October 5, 2011 when Iraq issued a statement that Iraq would not extend
the legal protections contained in the existing SA. That stipulation failed to meet the Defense
Department requirements that U.S. soldiers not be subject to prosecution under Iraq’s constitution
and its laws. On October 21, 2011, President Obama announced that the United States and Iraq
had agreed that, in accordance with the November 2008 Security Agreement (SA), all U.S. troops
would leave Iraq at the end of 2011. With the formal end of the U.S. combat mission on August
31, 2010, U.S. forces dropped to 47,000, and force levels dropped steadily from August to
December 2011. The last U.S. troop contingent crossed into Kuwait on December 18, 2011.

“Iraq General Says Forces Not Ready ‘Until 2020.’” Agence France Presse, October 30, 2011.
Prashant Rao. “Maliki Tells US’ Boehner Iraqi Troops Are Ready.” Agence France Presse, April 16, 2011.
Aaron Davis. “Maliki Seeking Consensus on Troops.” Washington Post, May 12, 2011.
Author conversations with Iraq experts in Washington, DC, 2011.
Eric Schmitt and Steven Lee Myers. “Plan Would Keep Military in Iraq Beyond Deadline.” September 7, 2011.

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The subsequent Sunni unrest and violence has caused some to argue that the Administration
should have pressed Iraqi leaders harder to allow a U.S. contingent to remain. Those who support
the Administration view say that political crisis was likely no matter when the United States
withdrew and that it is the responsibility of the Iraqis to resolve their differences.

Structure of the Post-Troop Relationship
After the withdrawal announcement, senior U.S. officials stated that the United States would be
able to continue to help Iraq secure itself using programs commonly provided for other countries.
Administration officials stressed that the U.S. political and residual security-related presence
would be sufficient to exert influence and leverage to ensure that Iraq remained stable, allied to
the United States, continuing to move toward full democracy, and economically growing and
vibrant. At the time of the withdrawal, there were about 16,000 total U.S. personnel in Iraq, about
half of which were contractors. Of the contractors, most were on missions to protect the U.S.
Embassy and consulates, and other U.S. personnel and facilities throughout Iraq.

Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) and Major Arms Sales
The Office of Security Cooperation—Iraq (OSC-I), operating under the authority of the U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq, is the primary Iraq-based U.S. institution that interacts with the Iraqi
military—primarily by administering the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programs (U.S. arms
sales to Iraq). OSC-I, funded with the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) funds discussed in the
aid table below, is the largest U.S. security cooperation office in the world. It works out of the
U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and five other locations around Iraq (Kirkuk Regional Airport Base,
Tikrit, Besmaya, Umm Qasr, and Taji).

The total OCS-I personnel numbers over 3,500, but the vast majority are security and support
personnel, most of which are contractors. Of the staff, about 175 are U.S. military personnel and
an additional 45 are Defense Department civilians. About 46 members of the staff administer the
Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and other security assistance programs such as the
International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. Since 2005, DOD has
administered 231 U.S.-funded FMS cases totaling $2.5 billion, and 201 Iraq-funded cases totaling
$7.9 billion. There are a number of other purchase requests initiated by Iraq that, if they all move
forward, would bring the estimated value of all Iraq FMS cases to nearly $25 billion.48

A large part of the arms sale program to Iraq was for 140 M1A1 Abrams tanks. Deliveries began
in August 2010 and were completed in August 2012. The tanks cost about $860 million, of which
$800 million was paid out of Iraq’s national funds. Iraq reportedly is also seeking to buy up to 30
Stryker armored vehicles equipped with gear to detect chemical or biological agents—a purchase
that, if notified to Congress and approved and finally agreed with Iraq, would be valued at about
$25 million. On December 23, 2012, the U.S. Navy delivered two support ships to Iraq, which
will assist Iraq’s fast-attack and patrol boats that secure its offshore oil platforms and other
coastal and offshore locations. The United States also plans to sell Iraq equipment that its security
forces can use to restrict the ability of insurgent and terrorist groups to move contaband across
Iraq’s borders and checkpoints (RAPISCAN system vehicles), at a cost of about $600 million.

Iraq Signs Arms Deals Worth $4.2 Billion. Washington Post, October 10, 2012; Tony Capaccio. “Iraq Seeks Up to
30 General Dynamics Stryker Vehicles.” Bloomberg News, November 19, 2012.

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Some refurbished air defense guns are being provided gratis as excess defense articles (EDA), but
Iraq reportedly resented that the guns did not arrive until June 2013. Other weapons, such as
Hellfire missiles, have been rushed to Iraq in the context of the early 2014 ISIL-led insurrection,
as discussed above.

F-16s. The largest FMS case is the sale of 36 U.S.-made F-16 combat aircraft to Iraq, notified to
Congress in two equal tranches, the latest of which was made on December 12, 2011 (Transmittal
No. 11-46). The total value of the sale of 36 F-16s is up to $6.5 billion when all parts, training,
and weaponry are included. The first deliveries of the aircraft are scheduled for September 2014,
although Iraqi officials—including Maliki during his visit to Washington, DC, in late October
2013—say that accelerating the deliveries would facilitate Iraqi efforts to inspect Iranian
overflights to Syria. Some experts and Iraqi politicians, particularly the Kurds, called for
withholding the F-16 deliveries unless Maliki recommits to power-sharing with Sunni and
Kurdish leaders, loosens ties to Iran, and fully cooperates with U.S. policy on Syria. Iraq’s
Kurdish leaders have long argued that Maliki could use the F-16s against domestic opponents.
The late 2013-early 2014 ISIL uprising have prompted the deliveries to go forward, possibly
ahead of schedule.

Apache Attack Helicopters and Stingers. In order to secure its airspace and to combat ISIL, in
2013 Iraq requested to purchase from the United States the Integrated Air Defense System and
Apache attack helicopters, with a total sale value of about $10 billion.49 The sale of the Air
Defense system was notified to Congress on August 5, 2013, with a value of $2.4 billion, and
includes 681 Stinger shoulder held units, 3 Hawk anti-aircraft batteries, and other equipment. On
that day, and in the preceding week, DSCA notified about $2.3 billion worth of other sales to Iraq
of Stryker nuclear, chemical, and biological equipment reconnaissance vehicles, 12 Bell
helicopters, the Mobile Troposcatter Radio System, and maintenance support. The provision of
the Apaches is discussed above in the context of the U.S. response to the early 2014 ISIL-led
insurrection. Although Administration officials reportedly favor providing at least six Apaches to
Iraq, that sale has not been notified to Congress.50

Non-U.S. Sales
Perhaps to hedge against a potential U.S. cutoff, Iraq seeks to diversify its arms supplies. Maliki
visited Russia on October 8, 2012, and signed deals for Russian arms worth about $4.2 billion. In
early November 2013, Russia delivered four Mi-35 attack helicopters to Iraq. Iraq might also buy
MiG fighter jets in the future, according to press reports. In mid-October 2012, Iraq agreed to buy
28 Czech-made military aircraft, a deal valued at about $1 billion.51 On December 12, 2013,
South Korea signed a deal to export 24 FA-50 light fighter jets to Iraq at an estimated cost of $1.1
billion; the aircraft will be delivered between 2015 and 2016.52

John Hudson. “Iraqi Ambassador: Give Us Bigger Guns, And Then We’ll Help on Syria.” July 17, 2013.
Adam Schreck. “Iraq Presses US For Faster Arms Deliveries.”, October 18, 2012.
Defense News. December 12, 2013.

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Police Development Program
A separate program is the Police Development Program, the largest program that transitioned
from DOD to State Department lead, using International Narcotics and Law Enforcement
(INCLE) funds. However, Iraq’s drive to emerge from U.S. tutelage produced apparent Iraqi
disinterest in the PDP. By late 2012, it consisted of only 36 advisers, about 10% of what was
envisioned as an advisory force of 350, and it is being phased out entirely during 2013. Two
facilities built with over $200 million in U.S. funds (Baghdad Police College Annex and part of
the U.S. consulate in Basra) are to be turned over the Iraqi government by December 2012. Some
press reports say there is Administration consideration of discontinuing the program entirely.53

2013-4: Iraq Rededicating to U.S. Security Programs?
In addition to administering arms sales to Iraq, OSC-I conducts train and assist programs for the
Iraq military. Because the United States and Iraq have not concluded a Status of Forces
Agreement (SOFA) document that would grant legal immunities to U.S. military personnel, the
160 OSC-I personnel involved in these programs are mostly contractors. They train Iraq’s forces
on counterterrorism and naval and air defense. Some are “embedded” with Iraqi forces as trainers
not only tactically, but at the institutional level by advising Iraqi security ministries and its
command structure. OSC-I has stepped up “non-operational” training with Iraqi counterterrorism
units as of early 2014 in the context of the ISIL-led insurrection, as testified by Deputy Assistant
Secretary McGurk on February 5, 2014. If a SOFA is agreed, some of these missions could be
performed by U.S. military personnel, presumably augmenting the effectiveness of the programs.

The new training Iraq seeks from the United States in the context of the ISIL-led insurrection
represents a continuation of a trend since late 2012 in which Iraq has reemphasized security
cooperation with the United States. On August 19, 2012, en route to a visit to Iraq, Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said that “I think [Iraqi leaders] recognize their
capabilities may require yet more additional development and I think they’re reaching out to us to
see if we can help them with that.”54 Aside from accelerated delivery of U.S. arms to be sold,55
Iraq reportedly expressed interest in expanded U.S. training of the ISF and joint exercises.

After the Dempsey visit, reflecting the Iraqi decision to reengage intensively with the United
States on security, it was reported that, at the request of Iraq, a unit of Army Special Operations
forces had deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence, presumably
against AQ-I/ISIL.56 (These forces presumably are operating under a limited SOFA or related
understanding crafted for this purpose.) Other reports suggest that Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) paramilitary forces had, as of late 2012, largely taken over some of the DOD mission of
helping Iraqi counter-terrorism forces (Counter-Terrorism Service, CTS) against ISIL in western
Iraq.57 Part of the reported CIA mission is to also work against ISIL in Syria.

Tim Arango. “U.S. May Scrap Costly Efforts to Train Iraqi Policy.” New York Times, May 13, 2012.
“U.S. Hopes For Stronger Military Ties With Iraq: General” Agence France-Presse, August 19, 2012.
Dan De Luce. “U.S. ‘Significant’ in Iraq Despite Troop Exit: Dempsey.” Agence France-Presse, August 21, 2012.
Tim Arango. “Syrian Civil War Poses New Peril For Fragile Iraq.” New York Times, September 25, 2012.
Adam Entous et al. “CIA Ramps Up Role in Iraq.” Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2013.

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Reflecting an acceleration of the Iraqi move to reengage militarily with the United States, during
December 5-6, 2012, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and acting Under
Secretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited Iraq and a Memorandum
of Understanding (MOU) was signed with acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaymi. The five
year MOU provides for:

• high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges
• professional military education cooperation
• counter-terrorism cooperation
• the development of defense intelligence capabilities
• joint exercises
The MOU appeared to address many of the issues that have hampered OSC-I from performing
the its mission to its full potential. The MOU also reflects some of the more recent ideas put
forward, such as joint exercises.

The concept of enhanced U.S.-Iraq cooperation gained further consideration in mid-2013. In June
2013, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the United States
was looking for ways to improve the military capabilities of Iraq and Lebanon, two countries
extensively affected by the Syria conflict. According to General Dempsey, enhanced assistance
could involve dispatching training teams and accelerating sales of weapons and equipment.
During his August 2013 visit to Washington D.C, conducted primarily to attend meetings of the
U.S.-Iraq Political and Diplomatic Joint Coordination Committee (JCC), Foreign Minister
Hoshyar Zebari indicated that Iraq wants to expand security cooperation with the United States to
enhance ISF capability. His visit came several weeks after a major insurgent attack on July 21,
2013, against the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The attack, in which several hundred
prisoners were freed, caused many experts to say that the lapsing of U.S.-Iraq security
cooperation had caused ISF proficiency to deteriorate.

During his November 1, 2013, meeting with President Obama, Maliki reportedly discussed
enhanced security cooperation, including expanded access to U.S. intelligence, with U.S.
officials, including President Obama and Secretary of Defense Hagel.58 The joint statement issued
at the conclusion of Maliki’s meeting with President Obama did not specify any U.S.
commitments to this level of cooperation, but did express a “shared assessment of al Qaida
affiliated groups threatening Iraq.” The joint statement indicated that Iraq has a “comprehensive
strategy” to isolate AQ-I/ISIL through “coordinated security, economic, and political measures,”
appearing to adopt U.S. urgings for a political solution in addition to security measures targeted at
militant groups in Iraq. Prior to the November 1 meeting, six Senators signed a letter to President
Obama expressing concerns about broadening strategic relations with Iraq in light of Maliki’s
policies toward his domestic opponents. Some members of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee met with Maliki during his visit and
reportedly expressed similar concerns to him directly.59

Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt. “As Security Deteriorates at Home, Iraqi Leader Arrives in U.S. Seeking Aid.”
New York Times, November 1, 2013.
Author conversations with congressional staff and outside experts. October 2013.

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The ISIL-led uprising of late 2013-early 2014 led to speculation that the United States might
reintroduce troops to Iraq to help the beleaguered ISF retake areas of Anbar that were lost. On
January 5, 2014, Secretary of State Kerry pointedly ruled out any deployment of U.S. troops to
Iraq, saying that it would be left to the Iraqis themselves to handle the crisis.

Regional Reinforcement Capability
Should the United States decide to intervene directly to assist Iraq, it retains a significant
capability in the Persian Gulf region to do so. The United States has about 35,000 military
personnel in the region, including about 10,000 mostly U.S. Army forces in Kuwait, a portion of
which are, as of mid-2012, combat ready rather than purely support forces. There is also
prepositioned armor there and in Qatar. There are about 7,000 mostly Air Force personnel in
Qatar; 5,000 mostly Navy personnel in Bahrain; and about 5,000 mostly Air Force and Navy in
the UAE, with very small numbers in Saudi Arabia and Oman. The remainder are part of at least
one aircraft carrier task force in or near the Gulf at any given time. The forces are in the Gulf
under bilateral defense cooperation agreements with all six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
states that give the United States access to military facilities to station forces and preposition
some heavy armor.

The Diplomatic and Economic Relationship
In his withdrawal announcement, President Obama stated that, through U.S. assistance programs,
the United States would be able to continue to develop all facets of the bilateral relationship with
Iraq and help strengthen its institutions.60 The bilateral civilian relationship was the focus of a
visit to Iraq by Vice President Biden in early December 2011, just prior to the December 12,
2011, Maliki visit to the United States.

The cornerstone of the bilateral relationship is the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA). The
SFA, signed and entered into effect at the same time as the SA, presents a framework for long-
term U.S.-Iraqi relations, and is intended to help orient Iraq’s politics and its economy toward the
West and the developed nations, and reduce its reliance on Iran or other regional states. The SFA
sets up a Higher Coordination Committee (HCC) and as an institutional framework for high-level
U.S.-Iraq meetings, and subordinate Joint Coordinating Committees. No meeting of the HCC was
held in 2012, but Foreign Minister Zebari’s August 2013 visit was in conjunction with one of the
JCCs. During Maliki’s October 29-November 1, 2013, visit, the HCC was convened—the fourth
meeting of the HCC since the SFA was signed.

The SFA provides for the following (among other provisions):

• U.S.-Iraq cooperation “based on mutual respect,” and that the United States will
not use Iraqi facilities to launch any attacks against third countries, and will not
seek permanent bases.
• U.S. support for Iraqi democracy and support for Iraq in regional and
international organizations.

Remarks by the President on Ending the War in Iraq.”, October 21, 2011.

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• U.S.-Iraqi dialogue to increase Iraq’s economic development, including through
the Dialogue on Economic Cooperation and a Trade and Investment Framework
Agreement (TIFA). The United States and Iraq announced on March 6, 2013, that
a bilateral TIFA had been finalized.
• Promotion of Iraq’s development of its electricity, oil, and gas sector.
• U.S.-Iraq dialogue on agricultural issues and promotion of Iraqi participation in
agricultural programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and USAID.
• Cultural cooperation through several exchange programs, such as the Youth
Exchange and Study Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program.
The joint statement following Maliki’s meeting with President Obama said that
nearly 1,000 Iraqi students were studying in the United States and that the two
sides had a “shared commitment” to increase than number and to increase
cultural, artistic, and scientific exchanges.
State Department-run aid programs are intended to fulfill the objectives of the SFA, according to
State Department budget documents. These programs are implemented mainly through the
Economic Support Fund, and the State Department budget justification for foreign operations for
FY2014 indicates that most U.S. economic aid to Iraq for FY2014 will go to programs to promote
democracy, adherence to international standards of human rights, rule of law, and conflict
resolution. Programs funded by the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law
Enforcement (INL) will focus on rule of law, moving away from previous use of INL funds for
police training. Funding will continue for counterterrorism operations (NADR funds), and for
anti-corruption initiatives.

U.S. officials stress that the United States does not bear the only burden for implementing the
programs above, in light of the fact that Iraq is now a major oil exporter. For programs run by
USAID in Iraq, Iraq matches one-for-one the U.S. funding contribution.

The State Department as Lead Agency
Virtually all of the responsibility for conducting the bilateral relationship falls on the State
Department, which became the lead U.S. agency in Iraq as of October 1, 2011. With the transition
completed, the State Department announced on March 9, 2012, that its “Office of the Iraq
Transition Coordinator” had closed. In July 2011, as part of the transition to State leadership in
Iraq, the United States formally opened consulates in Basra, Irbil, and Kirkuk. An embassy
branch office was considered for Mosul but cost and security issues kept the U.S. facility there
limited to a diplomatic office. The Kirkuk consulate close at the end of July 2012 in part due to
security concerns and to save costs. As reflected in its FY2014 budget request, the State
Department is planning to replace the U.S. consulate in Irbil with a New Consulate Compound in
Irbil. The FY2014 Consolidated Appropriation, P.L. 113-76 provides $250 million for that
purpose. The Ambassador in Iraq is Robert Stephen Beecroft, who was confirmed by the Senate
in September 2012.

The size and cost of the U.S. civilian presence in Iraq is undergoing reduction. U.S. officials said
in mid-2012 that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, built at a cost of about $750 million, carries too
much staff relative to the needed mission. From nearly 17,000 personnel at the time of the

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completion of the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2011, the number of U.S. personnel in Iraq fell to
about 10,000 in mid-2013 and has fallen to about 5,500 at the end of 2013.61 Of the U.S.
personnel in Iraq, about 1,000 are U.S. diplomats or other civilian employees of the U.S.
government.62 There have been no U.S. casualties in Iraq since the troop withdrawal.

As shown in Table 3 below (in the note), the State Department request for operations (which
includes costs for the Embassy as well as other facilities and all personnel in Iraq) is about $1.18
billion for FY2014—less than half the $2.7 billion requested for FY2013, and down 66% from
the $3.6 billion provided in FY2012. FY2012 was considered a “transition year” to State
Department leadership, requiring high start-up costs.

No Sanctions Impediments
As the U.S.-Iraq relationship matures, some might focus increasingly on U.S.-Iraq trade and U.S.
investment in Iraq. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, all U.S. economic sanctions against Iraq
were lifted. Iraq was removed from the “terrorism list,” and the Iraq Sanctions Act (Sections 586-
586J of P.L. 101-513), which codified a U.S. trade embargo imposed after Iraq’s invasion of
Kuwait, was terminated. As noted above in the section on the Gulf states, in December 2010, a
series of U.N. Security Council resolutions removed most remaining “Chapter VII” U.N.
sanctions against Iraq, with the exception of the reparations payments to Kuwait. The lifting of
U.N. sanctions allows any country to sell arms to Iraq. Iraq still is required to comply with
international proliferation regimes that bar it from reconstituting Saddam-era weapons of mass
destruction programs. On October 24, 2012, Iraq demonstrated its commitment to compliance
with these restrictions by signing the “Additional Protocol” of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. Because sanctions have been lifted, there are no impediments to U.S. business dealings
with Iraq.

Ernesto Londono. “U.S. Clout Wanes in Iraq.” Washington Post, March 24, 2013.
Tim Arango. “U.S. Plans to Cut Its Staff by Half at Iraq Embassy.” New York Times, February 8, 2012.

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Table 2. March 2010 COR Election: Final, Certified Results by Province
Elected Seats in
Province COR Results

Baghdad 68 Maliki: 26 seats; Iraqiyya: 24 seats; INA: 17 seats; minority
reserved: 2 seats
Nineveh (Mosul) 31 Iraqiiya: 20; Kurdistan Alliance: 8; INA: 1; Accordance: 1; Unity
(Bolani): 1; minority reserved: 3
Qadisiyah 11 Maliki: 4; INA: 5; Iraqiyya: 2
Muthanna 7 Maliki: 4; INA: 3
Dohuk 10 Kurdistan Alliance: 9; other Kurdish lists: 1; minority reserved:
Basra 24 Maliki: 14; INA: 7; Iraqiyya: 3
Anbar 14 Iraqiyya: 11; Unity (Bolani): 1; Accordance: 2
Karbala 10 Maliki: 6; INA: 3; Iraqiyya: 1
Wasit 11 Maliki: 5; INA: 4; Iraqiyya: 2
Dhi Qar 18 Maliki: 8; INA: 9; Iraqiyya: 1
Sulaymaniyah 17 Kurdistan Alliance: 8; other Kurds: 9
Kirkuk (Tamim) 12 Iraqiyya: 6; Kurdistan Alliance: 6
Babil 16 Maliki: 8; INA: 5; Iraqiyya: 3
Irbil 14 Kurdistan Alliance: 10; other Kurds: 4
Najaf 12 Maliki: 7; INA: 5
Diyala 13 Iraqiyya: 8; INA: 3; Maliki: 1; Kurdistan Alliance: 1
Salahuddin 12 Iraqiyya: 8; Unity (Bolani): 2; Accordance: 2
Maysan 10 Maliki: 4; INA: 6
Total Seats 325 Iraqiyya: 89 + 2 compensatory = 91
(310 elected + 8 Maliki: 87 + 2 compensatory = 89
minority reserved + 7
compensatory) INA: 68 + 2 compensatory = 70 (of which about 40 Sadrist)
Kurdistan Alliance: 42 +1 compensatory = 43
Unity (Bolani): 4
Accordance: 6
other Kurdish: 14
minority reserved: 8

Source: Iraqi Higher Election Commission, March 26, 2010.
Total seats do not add to 325 total seats in the COR due to some uncertainties in allocations.

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Table 3. U.S. Assistance to Iraq: FY2003-FY2013
(appropriations/allocations in millions of $)
FY Total FY13 FY14
‘03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 03-12
IRRF 2,475 18,389 — 10 — — — — — –– 20,874
ESF — — — 1,535.4 1,677 429 541.5 382.5 325.7 250 5,140 262.9 72.3
Fund — — — — 250 75 — — — –– 325
Asst.) — — — 13.0 2.8 — — — — –– 15.8
NADR — — 3.6 — 18.4 20.4 35.5 30.3 29.8 32 170 30.3 31.1
(MRA and
ERMA) 39.6 .1 — — 78.3 278 260 316 280 –– 1,100
IDA 22 — 7.1 .3 45 85 51 42 17 –– 269
Funds 470 — — — — 23.8 — — — –– 494
INCLE — — — 91.4 170 85 20 702 114.6 137 1,320 850 13.5
FMF –– –– –– –– –– –– –– –– –– 850 850 900 471.3
IMET — 1.2 — — 1.1 — 2 2 1.7 2 10 2 1.7
Funding — — 5,391 3,007 5,542 3,000 1,000 1,000 1,155 — 20,095
Iraq Army 51.2 — 210 — — — — — — — 261
CERP — 140 718 708 750 996 339 263 44.0 — 3,958
Repair 802 — — — — — — — — — 802
Support — — — — 50.0 50.0 74.0 — — — 174
Total 3,859 18,548 6,329 5,365 8,584 5,042 2,323 2,738 1,968 1,519 56,259 2,045.2 590
Sources: FY2014 Consolidated Appropriation (P.L. 113-76); State Department FY2014 Executive Budget Summary;
SIGIR Report to Congress, October 30, 2012; and CRS calculations.
Notes: Table prepared by Curt Tarnoff, Specialist in Foreign Affairs, May 2013. This table does not contain
agency operational costs, except where these are embedded in the larger reconstruction accounts. About $3.6
billion was spent for those functions in FY2012, and another $2.7 billion was requested by State Department for
these costs in FY2013. The FY2014 request is for $1.18 billion in such costs. IG oversight costs estimated at
$417 million. IMET=International Military Education and Training; IRRF=Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund;
INCLE=International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Fund; ISF=Iraq Security Force; NADR=Nonproliferation,
Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related: ESF=Economic Support Fund; IDA=International Disaster Assistance;
FMF=Foreign Military Financing; ISF= Iraqi Security Forces.

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Table 4. Recent Democracy Assistance to Iraq
(in millions of current $)

FY2009 FY2010 (act.) FY2011 FY2012

Rule of Law and Human Rights 32.45 33.3 16.5 29.75
Good Governance 143.64 117.40 90.33 100.5
41.00 52.60 30.00 16.25
Civil Society 87.53 83.6 32.5 55.5
Totals 304.62 286.9 169.33 202.0

Source: Congressional Budget Justification, March 2011. Figures for these accounts are included in the overall
assistance figures presented in the table above. FY2013 and FY2014 ESF and INCLE-funded programs focus
extensively on democracy and governance, rule of law, and anti-corruption.

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Table 5.Election Results (January and December 2005)
Seats Seats
Bloc/Party (Jan. 05) (Dec. 05)

United Iraqi Alliance (UIA, Shiite Islamist). 85 seats after departure of Fadilah (15 seats)
and Sadr faction (28 seats) in 2007. Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq of Abd al-Aziz al-
140 128
Hakim has 30; Da’wa Party (25 total: Maliki faction, 12, and Anizi faction, 13);
independents (30).
Kurdistan Alliance—KDP (24); PUK (22); independents (7) 75 53
Iraqis List (secular, Allawi); added Communist and other mostly Sunni parties for Dec. 40 25
Iraq Accord Front. Main Sunni bloc; not in Jan. vote. Consists of Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP, — 44
Tariq al-Hashimi, 26 seats); National Dialogue Council of Khalaf Ulayyan (7); General
People’s Congress of Adnan al-Dulaymi (7); independents (4).
National Iraqi Dialogue Front (Sunni, led by former Baathist Saleh al-Mutlak) Not in Jan. — 11
2005 vote.
Kurdistan Islamic Group (Islamist Kurd) (votes with Kurdistan Alliance) 2 5
Iraqi National Congress (Chalabi). Was part of UIA list in Jan. 05 vote — 0
Iraqis Party (Yawar, Sunni); Part of Allawi list in Dec. vote 5 —
Iraqi Turkomen Front (Turkomen, Kirkuk-based, pro-Turkey) 3 1
National Independent and Elites (Jan)/Risalyun (Message, Dec.) pro-Sadr 3 2
People’s Union (Communist, non-sectarian); on Allawi list in Dec. vote 2 —
Islamic Action (Shiite Islamist, Karbala) 2 0
National Democratic Alliance (non-sectarian, secular) 1 —
Rafidain National List (Assyrian Christian) 1 1
Liberation and Reconciliation Gathering (Umar al-Jabburi, Sunni, secular) 1 3
Ummah (Nation) Party. (Secular, Mithal al-Alusi, former INC activist) 0 1
Yazidi list (small Kurdish, heterodox religious minority in northern Iraq) — 1
Notes: Number of polling places: January: 5,200; December: 6,200; Eligible voters: 14 million in January election;
15 million in October referendum and December; Turnout: January: 58% (8.5 million votes)/ October: 66%
(10 million)/December: 75% (12 million).

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Author Contact Information

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs, 7-7612

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